France goes to war with Belgium and Jersey
Fights over borders and fights over fish — but it could all be sorted with a giant squid statue.
Welcome to Declassified, a weekly column looking at the lighter side of politics.
“Hi honey, how was your day?”
“Not bad. I plowed the main field, fed the animals and started a war with France.”
Yes, a farmer almost caused a major diplomatic incident when he moved a stone marking the border between Belgium and France so his tractor could pass by. Either that or the farmer was actually a Belgian spy tasked with gradually taking territory from the southern neighbor, meter by meter. In another 1,000 years or so they could reach Charleville-Mézières.
“He made Belgium bigger and France smaller,” David Lavaux, mayor of the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, told French TV channel TF1. “I was happy, my town was bigger,” the Belgian mayor added. “But the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn’t agree.”
The French sense of patriotism does of course run deep. Take Éric Bothorel, a member of parliament for Côtes-d’Armor. He gave an interview to the Ouest-France newspaper calling for the coronavirus curfew to be moved back from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. with an accompanying photograph taken at a table in front of a small kitchen. Everything was exactly as it should be. Coffee machine? Check. Strategically-placed bottle of hand gel? Naturellement. Massive photo of Emmanuel Macron placed on an easel? Er, what?
Perhaps M. Bothorel should be less concerned about sucking up to his boss with a ridiculously outsized photo and more concerned with the impending war with Jersey.
Jersey’s Minister for External Relations Ian Gorst said Wednesday that a threat to cut power to the island, which pretends to be British but which we all know is actually French, was “disproportionate.”
The threat to cut Jersey’s electricity supply, which came from French Sea Minister Annick Girardin, was merely the latest escalation in a row between France and the U.K. over post-Brexit fishing licenses. It was soon followed by London sending two offshore patrol vessels to Jersey “to monitor the situation,” which is code for “ready to shoot.”
There’s an obvious answer to this spat … build a giant statue of a sea creature to unite everyone around the rich maritime heritage of France and the U.K. For inspiration, they could look to Japan, where authorities in the port of Noto splashed out around 25 million yen on a massive statue of a squid, the local delicacy.
There’s one small problem: the money came from an emergency COVID-19 relief grant, leading some to wonder if it might have been better to splash the cash on improved medical facilities or better pay for nurses than on a giant cephalopod.
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Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.