Channel Islands Fisheries and Abuse by Tory Jingoism 98

Exactly thirty years ago I was Head of Maritime Section at the FCO and negotiating the voisinage agreement on mutual fishing rights in territorial waters between France and the Channel Islands. Memory dims with age, but it is hard to forget the evening in Cherbourg where a meeting with French fishermen became so heated we found ourselves diving into an alley to escape a pursuing group who wished to remonstrate further. In fact, the same fishermen in the same town three years later took hostage, for a day or so, British fisheries enforcement officers, which helped obtain some changes to the agreement in France’s favour in 1994. In 1991, the ire was directed not so much at me, as at the head of the French government delegation, an Enarque from the Quai D’Orsay of superb aristocratic demeanour and French Vietnamese ancestry, who was perhaps not the best choice to explain things to the fleet.

It should be noted that the later British “hostages” said they were fed and wined superbly and had rather a nice time of it.

It is hard to understand whether today the British media or the British government have the worse grasp of the issues at stake in this fisheries dispute. Let me make a few basic points.

Firstly, the Channel Islands were never in the EU and their waters were never part of the Common Fisheries Policy – the more so as both the French and the Channel Islands waters involved are all twelve mile territorial sea and not 200 mile exclusive economic zone. The extent to which this relates to Brexit is therefore much exaggerated.

Secondly, the issue dates back hundreds of years and is concerned with the maintenance of traditional fishing rights within each other’s waters by the French and Channel Islands fishermen. Both sides have always acknowledged these time hallowed rights of access.

Thirdly, the French and Channel Islands fishing communities concerned are inextricably interlinked and indeed intermarried. Certainly thirty years ago French was the first language among the fishermen on both sides (though I am told this is less true now).

To try to explain further, fishermen are taking specific types of catch in specific areas, and their boats are equipped for this. They cannot simply be told to go and catch something different in their state’s “own” area without changing equipment and indeed sometimes boat. To state the obvious, if you are putting down your lobster pots it is not easy to be told to go fish for mackerel somewhere else instead. That is the principle, though I don’t pretend to remember the catches now.

It is not just a technical and financial matter. It is a question of personal identity and survival of communities. Fishing families have been taking the same catch in the same areas for many generations. The boats are inherited, the community set up for the appropriate processing and sales.

In making the voisinage agreement we took care to interact very closely with the fishing communities on each side and learn their stories and history. We heard tales of catches going back centuries, and fishermen viewed access to the sea their fathers had fished as a right that was nothing to do with governments; this was very even. Some Channel Islands fishermen fished certain French waters, and some French fishermen fished certain Channel Island waters. We also heard of bitter disputes between families. Tales of nets cut or pots lifted were recounted with vivid detail, only for it to be subsequently revealed the incident was in 1905 and it was somebody’s great grandfather who did it. These are complex and intermixed communities, and there is rivalry between islands as much as with the French communities. There are cross-cutting community alliances too.

Above all, as in all fishing communities, there was mutual support in the face of the sea, tales of drownings, disasters and long remembered community grief, and of course tales of rescues – of French boats rescuing Channel Island boats, and Channel Island boats rescuing French boats.

These are proud communities. The monumental stupidity of the Tory government in not seeking to understand and talk through the issues, but rather sending in intimidatory gunboats and wildly exacerbating the dispute, is heartbreaking. Of course I understand the Tories don’t actually care about the issue at all and are using anti-French jingoism for electoral purposes, but the poison they have injected will have effects for many decades.

The voisinage agreement that was drawn up and signed off by Exchange of Note between ministers in 1992 (which really did involve me doing stuff with ribbons and sealing wax) was therefore perhaps not what you would expect to see, and bore no relation to the simplistic nostrums being discussed about the dispute this morning. It named specific individual fishing boats, it named individual captains, and detailed exactly where they could exercise their family’s traditional rights to fish. There were “grandfather rights” – inherited, traditional rights that could not be achieved by newcomers. There was the right to replace a boat, but specific and individually tailored limits of the size and type of boat it could be replaced with. There were sunset clauses – I have a recollection many of the rights expired to be renegotiated in 2010, which seemed a long way away in those days. I believe that much of “my” voisinage agreement was replaced by the Granville Bay Agreement of 2000, which sounds to me unwise in decoupling French rights in Channel Island waters from Channel Island rights in French waters, but I was Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana by then and I confess I have not studied the Granville Bay agreement.

The political right today misinterpret this as some kind of English/French territorial dispute. As I hope I have explained, it is nothing of the sort, and none of the fishermen involved would ever call themselves English. The political left must not confuse the fishermen with the beneficiaries of the Channel Islands status as a great international centre for tax evasion and the laundering of illegal money. The beneficiaries of that activity are overwhelmingly not in the Channel Islands at all, but spivs in the lap dancing clubs and penthouses of the City of London. There are few beneficiaries in the Channel Islands beyond the sleazy lawyers who host thousands of paper companies, the political crooks and the token bank facades fronting for London. The fishermen are nothing to do with that world.

I should make very plain that my own negotiations were guided and in reality led by David Anderson, FCO legal adviser and a major influence in the development of the Law of the Sea. But empathy is an essential negotiating skill, and I was much helped by the fact that I grew up myself in an inshore fishing community and from a fishing family. As you may know, my mother was English and I was born in West Runton and grew up in neighbouring Sheringham. My great grandfather John Johnson had been one the last builders of traditional Sheringham fishing boats, and many relatives were still fishing in my childhood. To give you an idea, I have four direct ancestors in this photo of the Augusta lifeboat, including the cox’n at the stern, who is my great, great grandfather John Long. My grandmother had a copy of this postcard and used to tell me we were related to every single man in the photo (which is what is known as NfN, Normal for Norfolk). She could name them all. I believe six generations later my cousin Nick Grice is today still cox of the Sheringham lifeboat.

I shall allow myself to be a bit morbid today. The UK used to have an envied foreign service which valued expertise, diligence and negotiation. It now prizes bluff, jingoism and cheap popularity. We are sending gunboats, not negotiators, to the Channel Islands. Meantime I am being sentenced, probably to prison, this morning for Contempt of Court, for the crime of diligent journalism. O Tempora! O Mores!

You can read something of my case and contribute to my defence fund for an appeal to the Supreme Court here.

UPDATE: The court has been adjourned until Tuesday 11 May at 9:45am, (ostensibly) to enable consideration of mitigating factors submitted this morning. Read Taylor Hudak’s summary of the court hearing here and consult her timeline for a record of her live tweeting as it happened.


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98 thoughts on “Channel Islands Fisheries and Abuse by Tory Jingoism

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  • Ben MacIntyre

    £50 donated today, keep up the good work and don’t let the bastards grind you down, thank you Craig.

  • Photios

    …and still they drag it out.
    The process is the punishment;
    or, at least, a major part of it.

  • Jon

    I don’t mind being called naive, but the judge called Craig’s case a “difficult and anxious matter”. That gives me some hope, partly that she is taking Craig’s health into account, but mostly also that the judicial team is not unaware of the problem of making it effectively illegal to report for the defence in a Scottish sexual assault case. Middle-of-the-road journos may not care about this, but it isn’t inconceivable that the judges do.

    • N_

      Has Taylor Hudak ever attended a court hearing before?

      I’m guessing, but…the defence applied for an adjournment so they can make their case properly for mitigation, right?

      If so, then the prosecution may have supported the defence application, opposed it, or said nothing.
      If they supported it, the judge would almost automatically grant it, may have been told in chambers, and one shouldn’t read much into what words she used.

      Why it’s not being made public I haven’t a clue, but doubtless the defence have good reasons.

    • Piotr+Berman

      They already wrote the doctrine that may forbid reporting arguments of the defense, with a logically inconsistent exception for the “jigsaw puzzle pieces” made public be the prosecution and the court itself (inconsistent with the assumption that the only purpose is defending maidenly privacy, and not muzzling and harassing).

      So now they spend time bemoaning the lack of judicial tools of the past, stocks, flogging, and ducking stool — Craig as a unrepentant scold could qualify.

  • Theophilus

    Good article but it reads as if the French government has not been at work as well. In fact Johnson was suggesting everybody calm down before election day. Equally it is true that the French fishermen were intending rough stuff but were discouraged by the presence of the two fishery protection shipls.
    This article is quite neutral and covers the Macronist shennanigans quite well –

    • Laguerre

      Johnson sending gunboats was not calming down. It was playing to the warmongering Brexiter-nutters.

      • Colin Smith

        It did seem to calm it down. The protest started off theatrically/aggressively depending on your take with flares and intimidating tactics. The Navy turned up and they went home. It has more to do with the media than the governments.

        • Laguerre

          Nonsense. Violence was never threatened. The demonstrators were left free to move into the harbour, which they did. The navy was reluctant to intervene. Because Johnson only wanted a military show for the elections. The demonstrators then left once they’d done their thing and had their photos taken in the harbour by the media, letting off flares. (That was because they had another appointment later in the Bay of St Brieuc, to protest about the construction of an offshore wind-farm, which has been controversial and much in the French media).

          • Colin Smith

            A French boat rammed an Islanders’ boat. No government would allow that.

          • Laguerre

            Wrong interpretation of the event. It was the Jersey boat that was acting up and aggressively, even if it was the French that ended up doing the hitting as he couldn’t stop.

      • Brian c

        He will be made to pay a heavy price for such antics by the entirely genuine, not at all bogus “Remain” movement.

  • N_

    It’s remarkable how governments in both the USA and Britain can insist they or their pals (looking at the Ukrainian government here) have some kind of right to buy stuff from foreign countries regardless of whether or not those countries want to sell it – meaning Russian gas to the Ukraine or French electrical energy to Britain.

    It’s not long since the British government was planning to run oil generators on ships in the Irish Sea (equipment hastily removedf from Afghanistan) to supply Northern Ireland with electrical energy in the case of a “no deal Brexit”. If they can do it for Northern Ireland they can do it for Jersey. Gotta keep those money-laundering computers running!

    • Kempe

      Jersey has it’s own oil fired power stations but they’re more expensive and polluting than French imports.

      Power cables under the Irish Sea connect NI and Eire with the UK grid. Probably not sufficient to provide all of NI’s needs though.

      • Laguerre

        Do the moth-balled Jersey oil fired power stations actually work, though?

  • John Mc Carney

    Let the truth shine and glint upon your ink. Clouds may breeze with ease gloated with the agency of power, obscure and dilly their might is nilly, manifested in time.
    Solidarité Brother.

    • DunGroanin

      I like the fish one.

      As you know the French ain’t innocent in fucking up the world with their millennia long escapades too.

      From North Africa to Middle East to Indio-China.

      When it comes to fish and the Seas – it is incredible that we all seem to accept that a land living peoples lay claim to the waters, seabeds AND the creatures that inhabit or transit through these waters!

      Humans are fucked if that level of entitlement is perpetuates much longer – Nature will eliminate us within centuries to protect itself.

      • N_

        Stopping the climate from changing is one of the most anti-nature human-supremacist ideas that humans have ever had. (Clue: some natural cycles work slow and fast and operate on longer timescales than human memory.) As far as I know, even Adolf Hitler didn’t go that far. But the deranged British crown prince…

  • Clay Sucre

    Aye Craig-life is short- truth lives long you have spoken the truth, live long, best of health. I wonder if the legal issue has anything to do with the election results-re how the Alba/SNOP perform at the polls? What about the fact that someone was punished for contempt in a more deliberate/wilful manner handed six months-Clive Thompson recall him. Then the BBC and that Garavelli reporter in Tortoise and Scotland on Sunday – did much worse than you Craig! Me thinks they have just realised the atrocious abuse of justice and about to save face somehow – suspended sentence / small fine – go home to your family and continue speaking the TRUTH.

    CM’s being according to the court-“jigsaw”.

    • N_

      They’re unlikely to give a suspended sentence for contempt of court; and in the unlikely event that they do, keeping yer trap shut will be a condition. The creeps in the corridors of power already think Craig has taken the p*ss out of them to an outrageous extent.

      Some people are misunderstanding the PR completely. The rulers, bureaucrats, and judiciary don’t want PR right now that makes them look SOFT. They’re not playing to the liberal pro-transsexual treat-the-servants-nicely gallery. They want to look HARD… “You step out of line on the internet and it’s jail time for you. Don’t think we’re not watching your every step”.

      • N_

        I have to say it is disgraceful that Alex Salmond has not supported Craig publicly.

        • Annie McStravick

          The support goes without saying. I think a public statement would be superfluous.

  • Jm

    The torture comes in many forms.

    Stay strong Craig amidst this shameful and grotesque excuse for justice.

  • Fwl

    Fishing, Scottish Nationalism and most election issues are just pissing in the wind. The one issue to think about is why on earth Gain of Function testing was resumed in December 2017 after a moratorium was imposed in 2014.

    See Lancet article from February 2018 and the Cambridge Working Group paper from 2014.

    There is a second difficult issue worth talking about: QE.

    As I say the rest is pissing in the wind.

    • Fwl

      Bulk data collection, modern day press self-censorship and injustice to whistle blowers eg Julian Assange and Craig Murray are also worth talking about.

      I concede an irony in complaining about self-censorship when suggesting there is not much worth talking about, but I’m basically making an elephant in the room point. No one is talking about these basic issues. So what is the point of being independent: where are roaring mice? They are all scared of the cats.

      Ps I do hope the Judge in Craig’s case is consulting her conscience.

      • Colin Smith

        The judge has not consulted her conscience very much so far. It is clear that Craig, and to some extent other anti-government case bloggers have been treated in a completely discriminatory fashion from the legal system, than the pro government case. Nobody at any stage expected mainstream journalists or the BBC to be subject to the same prosecution despite laying down far more, and often more critical pieces of the jigsaw. Added to the elongated processes at every stage, ramping up costs, stress and uncertainty and acting as a prolonged gag, the whole charade has been a stain on Scottish justice.

        It is farcical to think that all of these factors would not have been long apparent to any judge and need additional consideration.

  • DunGroanin

    Whilst we inexplicably have to wait for the list count (a break in the counting and suspicious high turnouts are now obvious tell-tale signs of postal vote algorithm manipulation …).

    The Fish wars are just a warm up for, hopefully the last, Great Game attempt to grab Russia and China and the Sub-continent.

    It seems the 77th may have to go beyond the keyboard soldiering – yes me hearties, the Chindits are being reformed and you are needed to go die for real in the jungles and mountains instead of your anonymous gobshittery and order following that will see many of you in international courts that WILL convict under Nuremberg.

    The proxy forces are going to be unleashed against the Buddhists who fought against the Brits in Myanmar and for Japan! MoA has a top analysis as usual on this.

    Oh dear oh dear – India – is being led into being the Anglo Imperialists proxy sacrificial Hindu army set against fascist Burmese Buddhists with the recognition of the fake GNU of Myanmar by the G7, with the tribal Karen and Kachin peoples. It seems to me that the lady Soo Kyi , didn’t want to play that proxy game she had been groomed for and explains why she fell foul of ‘western’ governments BEFORE she was recently deposed. It explains the fast almost magical appearance of Color Revolutionaries within days as the CIA ops was ignited.

    I guess the head chopping Uighers have a new sacrificial battleground to die on! With the White Helmets coming to their aid!

    There is NO CHANGE to any of the Trumpian era cfr / State Department US illegality in the World after a 100 days of Dementia’d masked new saviour – Pompous Blinking are one and the same Gollum.

    Will the ‘Indians’ be so dumb as to fight for the Empires they threw off? It may actually lead to the break up of it and back to its ancient states – I can’t see how they will agree to support the proxy war against China and Russia under the fake fascist Hindus of the North West that appear to have control over the Republic at the moment.That have chosen a path of continued impoverishment instead of the great investment of the BRI; and death ultimately of millions of its peoples by the refusal of treatments for its most vulnerable.
    There will no doubt be the ‘Bose’ and ‘Aung Sang’ anti Anglo imperial counter proxies as this Third World War opens yet another front in SE Asia.

    Once CM’s travails pass I hope to get his considered opinions on this march to far away wars as the Empire goes through its zombie death throes.

  • Ian Morrison

    Best of wishes for next Tuesday Craig. I’m a latecomer to your blog but always find it lucid, well informed and more importantly a place of sanity, unlike much of what I read on Scottish politics atm.

  • Simon

    Thank you very much for this piece. As a Channel Islander (although over 25 years in Scotland now) I read the coverage with interest but also dismay.
    The commentary, whether from left or right, was overly simplistic. Too many issues were conflated or ignored to suit preconceived ideas and agendas.
    We are separate, neither in the UK nor the EU, and proud to be so. We have our own rivalries. We may be tax havens but there is, in the main, a clear difference between Islanders and those who benefit from such arrangements.
    This may be thirty years since your involvement and, as you admit, some of the finer details may be hazy but you clearly articulate the reality of the islands and not the lazy assumptions made by so many.
    Thank you and, for tomorrow, Happy Liberation Day!

    • Jon

      The actual truth seems to have been mislaid in this fishing argument.

      As I understand it, the UK leaving the EU meant that the French either refused to allow non-EU fishing boats to land catches at French ports, or imposed such thorough and complex import paperwork that the fish was rotting by the time any non-EU fishermen had completed the procedures.

      This appears to have resulted in a number of Channel Island fishermen deciding to call it a day, as the UK market for shellfish is relatively poor when compared with EU demand.

      The French were not slow to realise that given a downturn in Channel Island boats fishing the area, they could bring extra vessels in and make up the shortfall for themselves. However, Jersey was not about to let their waters be exploited by any French vessel which fancied a trip. Therefore they changed the licence agreement to only include those boats whose skippers could provide evidence of years/decades of operating in Jersey waters.

      The johnny-come-latelys could not provide any information, and were therefore not given licences. This appears to be the catalyst for the current dispute.

      This maybe a simplistic version, of events – but it would appear that the anti-Brexit spin which is coming from certain media quarters is a little misplaced.

      • Bayard

        No-one is interested in the truth if it doesn’t fit the narrative. Ireland pulled a similar paperwork stunt just after Brexit, but it didn’t fit the narrative and so wasn’t reported.

      • Laguerre

        If Britain kept to the agreement it signed, there wouldn’t be a problem. But you’re saying Britain should be free to break the agreement it only signed a few months ago.

  • Jo

    Last night France said British fishermen were no longer welcome to French ports Ban came after one Jersey boat was threatened with violence and turned back Now, Jersey fishermen have started giving away their lobster hauls for free Fisherman has spoken of being ‘stuck in a dead end’ as they run out of supplies 

    Not over yet by any means.

    • Jon

      Scottish fishermen protested at Westminster about the extra paperwork meaning their catch would be rotting before it could be imported to the EU, but after a few brief articles in the MSM their complaints were either ignored or sorted. Everyone seems to be trying to re-write this story to suit their own political agenda.

      The EU appears to be taking the British for a bunch of idiots (and maybe they are getting away with it?) by demanding they have access to our waters for their boats but they don’t want our boats landing catches in their ports.

      Basically, they are saying UK boats can only supply the UK, and non-EU markets if they can find any. It is a form of seige, where our fishermen will be bankrupted by denying them markets where the rest of Europe dominate.

      • Laguerre

        Precisely what the Brexiters wanted, and the agreement they negotiated.

        • Jon

          The agreement they negotiated, finalised on 24th December last year, was for the Channel Islands to be included in new arrangements for fishing in UK waters. This agreement allowed licensed EU boats to fish in UK and Channel Island waters up to 6 miles from the respective coastlines.

          Both sides agreed to this, and it made no mention of the previous access to waters that either side may have had in the past (something which the French seem to be getting all worked up about).

          I’m afraid that I am not in a position to comment on what Brexiters wanted; because I have not asked them all and have no desire to do so.

  • Clare

    A really interesting piece, Craig, thank you. I have appreciated your baldly honest writing for a long time (esp re Julian Assange).
    With regard to the fishing dispute: you were rightly critical of the clumsy response by the British Gov’t (NB I have never in my long life voted Tory); but I wondered why you didn’t also comment on the equally clumsy threat from the French Gov’t to cut off Jersey’s electricity?

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