U.K. Sending Navy Ships to Counter French Threat of Island Blockade Over Fishing Rights

The United Kingdom is sending two naval ships to respond to French threats of potentially blockading the largest of the English Channel islands amid an escalating fishing rights dispute sparked by the U.K.'s departure from the European Union.

The latest measure was announced Wednesday following a phone call between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and two senior Jersey officials, Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré and Foreign Minister Ian Gorst.

A readout shared by Downing Street said Le Fondré and Gorst "stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access."

The U.K. head of state, for his part, "underlined his unwavering support for Jersey. He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified."

The readout added: "As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation."

The development follows French protests that erupted over new, strict regulations imposed on fishing vessels from France last week as a result of the U.K.'s years-long divorce from the EU, a process commonly referred to as Brexit. Paris has accused London of breaching the terms of their agreements, and French fishermen have already discussed the prospect of cutting off Jersey's St. Heller port.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin also proposed the possibility of cutting off electricity to Jersey, which receives up to 95% of its power via underwater cable from France.

The language prompted the island's main supplier, the Jersey Electricity Company, to issue a tweet Wednesday reassuring residents.

"Following enquiries from our customers regarding the French fishing dispute, JE can reassure customers that in the unlikely event electricity supplies from France are disrupted, La Collette Power Station and Queens' Road has capacity to supply Jersey's electricity requirements," the company wrote.

As the spat continued to play out between the two allies, both members of the NATO Western military coalition, French Trade Minister Franck Riester spoke Wednesday with his U.K. counterpart Greg Hands in order to "discuss the importance of fully implementing and upholding the Withdrawal Agreement," which sets the post-Brexit conditions for continue relations between the U.K. and EU member states.

Riester highlighted emphasized a need for London to adhere fully to another area of unrest that has erupted in the wake of the U.K.'s leave from the EU: Northern Ireland. The U.K.-administered territory has long been subject to tensions between loyalists allied with the kingdom and nationalists seeking to unite the island of Ireland, and post-Brexit struggles to reach a solution on the border between the U.K.-controlled north and EU member Ireland has resulted in new demonstrations and rioting.

In order to settle yet another row related to Brexit, the U.K. and EU announced Wednesday they had reached an agreement that would allow London to accept EU ambassador João Vale de Almeida with full diplomatic status. The U.K. had previously refused to grant the envoy diplomatic immunity on the basis that he did not represent any a country.

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Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Tyne sails past the United Kingdom island of Guernsey, near Jersey, in the English Channel on May 6, 2020. United Kingdom Ministry of Defense

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.