The UK is already facing major gas shortages, and now French officials threatening to sever an agreement to supply electricity to the country. The reason? The officials are ticked off by the UK’s refusal to grant French fishermen licenses to fish in British waters, creating the latest drama in the messy Brexit split.
Clément Beaune, France’s EU affairs minister, said in an interview with the French radio station Europe1 on Tuesday that the country could act in mere days. “The Channel Islands, the UK are dependent on us for their energy supply,” Beaune said. “They think they can live on their own and badmouth Europe as well. And because it doesn’t work, they indulge in one-upmanship, and in an aggressive way.”
The two Channel Islands Beaune’s referring to here—Jersey and Guernsey—are nestled between Britain’s and France’s respective coastlines. The two islands are reliant on energy supplied by undersea cables coming from France that provide clean energy. Guernsey gets 90% of its electricity from renewables in Europe while Jersey pulls 95% of its electricity from France.
Last week, a full third of the French fishermen applying to fish around Jersey’s waters got turned away by the island’s government. The week before, UK officials only offered 12 applicants access to EU licenses after nearly 50 applied. When asked about the rejections, British officials simply said that the rejected vessels failed to offer evidence that they’d been licensed to operate in these waters in the past, a precondition for getting a license.
French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin called it, according to France24, “a new British refusal to apply the conditions of the Brexit accord” while also noting that “French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political ends.”
Even before the current staredown, France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin has been threatening Jersey with a full electrical stoppage for months. In May, Girardin told Sky News that the country has “the means” to cut Jersey’s access “if we have to.” Following through on these threats would leave both Jersey and Guernsey dependent on diesel generators to keep the lights on, which would be both costly and highly polluting.
The French do have the UK over a bit of a barrel. Electricity prices have been skyrocketing in the UK due to an overdependence on natural gas to generate power at home. Another undersea cable from France to the UK was also knocked out of commission last month by a fire, further driving up prices. That cable is expected to come back online by the end of October. There’ but the new fracas means the French may not want to send any juice through it when that happens.