British fishing boat remains detained in France despite Cabinet minister’s request

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A British ship caught in a diplomatic storm between France and the UK remains stranded in Le Havre despite the Environment Secretary suggesting it has been released.

George Eustice said Tuesday morning that he understood that Cornelis Gert Jan had been released following “administrative confusion”.

But Downing Street was later forced to make it clear that it was “staying in port” after it emerged that the scallop dredge registered in Scotland had not been released.

The ship was immobilized during an argument in which France threatened to prevent British boats from landing their catches in French ports and to tighten customs controls.

The trawler was detained in the port of Le Havre, in the west of France (Michel Euler / AP)

Paris alleges that British authorities did not grant licenses to French boats to fish in British waters after Brexit.

Andrew Brown, the public affairs manager of Macduff Shellfish, owner of the vessel, said: “We understand the Cornelis is being held in Le Havre at least until the hearing in Rouen scheduled for tomorrow.”

Authorities also admitted that the vessel was still in French custody.

The GPS coordinates indicate that the Cornelis stayed in Le Havre on Tuesday afternoon.

In a series of interviews aired in the morning, Mr Eustice told Sky News: “I understand that the ship has now been released and I think more discussions are needed, there has clearly been an administrative error at one point. “

He then described the problem on BBC Breakfast as “administrative confusion” due to an engine change.

Officials later suggested there had been a communication problem.

The ship’s captain Cornelis Gert Jan, who is believed to be an Irish national, was arrested in Le Havre during the dispute and learned he would be heard in court in August next year.

French authorities allege that the dredge was unlicensed, a claim denied by Macduff Shellfish.

The EU said UK authorities withdrew the license on March 1.


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