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Fishing rights escalating row: France detained UK boat

ARJAN BUURVELD
Image caption,The Cornelis Gert Jan, which is owned by MacDuff Shellfish of Scotland, was detained when fishing in French waters

ARJAN BUURVELD
Image caption,The Cornelis Gert Jan, which is owned by MacDuff Shellfish of Scotland, was detained when fishing in French waters

A British fishing boat used for trawling has been seized by France and another has been fined, amid rapidly increasing row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Annick Girardin, French maritime minister said the ships were warned during checks off Le Havre overnight.

She stated that the first did not comply right away and the second was not permitted to fish in French waters so was detained.

The environment secretary declared he was “urgently” probing the situation in relation to the detained vessel.

George Eustice while responding to an Urgent Commons Question from the SNP, said the boat was on a list provided by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) at first provided to the European Union.

He maintained that the European Union granted a licence to the vessel but it was “unclear” why, as claimed by reports, it was afterwards withdrawn from the list.

Mr Eustice declared he was awaiting further information from Marine Scotland and was anticipating a response in the

“next hour or so”.

The SNP’s environment spokesperson, Deidre Brock, said the captain of the vessel was due in court this morning after being apprehended for fishing without a licence in French waters and it was not good enough that the environment
secretary had so little details.

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MacDuff Shellfish of Scotland, which owns the Cornelis, declared the crew of its vessel were “in good spirits” after it was

“ordered into a French port while legally fishing for scallop in French waters”.

The firm’s Andrew Brown stated the crew would remain on board the vessel until its release, while the captain had left the boat to be questioned by the French officials and had been given legal representation.

He said Macduff’s

“fishing activity [was] absolutely legal”

and it seemed the Cornelis, based at Shoreham, in West Sussex, had been “caught up” in the continuing UK-France post-Brexit fishing row.

Mr Brown causioned that without “a speedy resolution”, the vessel’s catch could be seized with authority by the French officials, and called on the UK government to

“defend the rights of the UK fishing fleet”.

The firm will “vigorously defend” itself against any claims, yet its “priority concern” was for the welfare of the vessel’s crew.

Ms Girardin had stated on Twitter that the trawler was found to be fishing in the Bay of Seine without the proper authorization.

The minister said checks on the British vessels were standard at the time of the scallop fishing season.

Still she added that they had also been engaged against

“the backdrop of the tightening of controls in the Channel, in the context of discussions on licenses with the United Kingdom and the European Commission”.

In naval slang, this is called a shot across the bows.

Strictly, the French checks on UK trawlers in the Channel overnight do not form part of the raft of retaliatory actions declared in the fishing squabble.

However there should be no doubt they are meant as a message about what forth-coming.

From Tuesday, British and Channel Islands fishing boats will not be permitted to offload their catch at French ports.

Still that is the least of it. Only 5% of UK seafood exports to France come in this way. The rest arrive by freight.

Possibly far more troublesome will be increased controls at Calais and other entry points for UK trade by ferry and tunnel.

The French officials will be organizing what they call a “grève de zèle” – in other words becoming suddenly meticulous, thorough and on the look out for infringement.

And it is not just fish imports which will be inspected, but everything.

The intention will be to create long tail-backs which will play on the news channels – reminding UK observers of the costs of go-it-alone.

France had cautioned that it would block British boats from some ports next week – in addition to tightening checks on UK boats and trucks – if a post-Brexit row over fishing licences was not settled by 2 November.

On Wednesday evening, it issued its a final demand, saying it would start imposing “targeted measures” from next Tuesday, inclusive of preventing British fishing boats from getting off at ports and more checks on UK goods.

France has also inform it could cut electricity supplies to Jersey, a British Crown dependency, as it formerly warned in May.

Mr Eustice said threatening remarks of sanctions made by France were “disappointing and disproportionate” and seemed to breach the post-Brexit deal and international law.

He called on MPs to “remain calm”, saying that UK would not get into a “retaliatory tit-for-tat” but cautioned of a possible “appropriate and calibrated response” if France carried out its ultimatum.

Mr Eustice dismissed French allegation that the process for securing fishing licences had been slow and hard, saying authorities had approved 98% of post-Brexit licence applications from European boats to fish in UK waters.

He said also that more were expected to be granted following “constructive” discussions with the European Commission and that he had told the French and the Commission that the UK’s

“door remains ever open”.

Bruno Boller, French politician and member of President Macron’s En Marche party, informed BBC Radio 4’s World at One programm that French fishermen are

“losing 25% of their business because of regulation”.

He said further

“in the Brexit treaty we were not supposed to reach this point of tension”

and dismissed the licencing figures quoted by Mr Eustice, saying 200 licences had been granted.

Mr Boller disagree French authorities

“have ways to retaliate if you push too hard” and he “would not be surprised if by next week we see important moves” in discussions.

The UK insist the declined applications which ignited the row did not have enough supporting proof to show they had a history of fishing in Britain’s or Jersey’s waters.

A discussion with representatives from France, Jersey, the UK and European Commission, on Wednesday led to 162 French boats being given licences to fish in Jersey’s waters from Friday.

The government of Jersey declared it was

“extremely disappointed”

by the fresh warnings of punitive action by France. French trawlers earlier protested outside the port of St Helier on the island.

Luke Pollard, Labour’s shadow environment secretary said the anxieties were a result of the government losing control of discussions and there was real fear

“the botched Brexit deal”

was going to lead to more clashes.

 

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