France brings captain of seized British fishing boat to court as UK warns “two can play this game”

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By Joseph Ataman, Martin Goillandeau and Nada Bashir, CNN

The captain of a British fishing trawler detained in France has been ordered to appear in French court over allegations of illegal fishing, as the war of words between the two countries over post-Brexit fishing rights escalated on Friday .

French authorities seized the ship, fined another British boat and announced on Thursday the closure of almost all French ports to British trawlers, a major escalation in the long feud between the Allies.

French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said in an interview with French television channel CNEWS that with a few exceptions all French ports will no longer be accessible to British ships, referring to ships unloading fish and some products.

The master of the Cornelis, Gert Jan, is scheduled to appear in court on August 11, 2022 for the alleged “unauthorized fishing by a non-EU vessel in French maritime waters”, according to a statement from deputy prosecutor Cyrille Fournier.

“During the inspection, the captain of the vessel was not in possession of the authorization required to fish in the French exclusive economic zone,” Fournier said in a statement.

Juliette Hatchman, CEO of the South West Fish Producers Organization, told CNN that she believed the vessel’s crew “were in possession of the appropriate license to fish in European Union waters and therefore were fishing legally. at the time of the arrest by the French authorities “. However, Hatchman noted that it “looked like the vessel may not have been on an approved UK list.”

The latest French measures come in response to the British government’s refusal to grant post-Brexit fishing licenses to several French fishermen. A spokesperson for the European Commission told reporters on Tuesday that on October 1, the UK had granted licenses to 15 of the 47 smaller French vessels which had applied to fish in UK territorial waters.

Of the remaining vessels, France has agreed to cancel claims for 17 vessels whose evidence of their fishing activity in UK waters before Brexit was considered poor, the spokesperson said.

‘Two can play this game’, says UK

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Friday the UK government “reserves the ability to respond proportionately” to France’s retaliatory measures, telling Sky News that “two can play this game” .

“The things they suggest to do – which is basically start being difficult at the borders and shutting down the ports and so on – it’s a clear break not only of the trade and cooperation agreement that we have. with them, but also EU law, “said Eustice.” The comments that have been made by France on this subject are completely disproportionate. They are unacceptable.

Eustice added that the latest incident concerns a “very small number of vessels which simply do not qualify under the terms of the agreement” reached.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We reiterate that the government has granted 98% of EU vessel license applications to fish in UK waters and, as has always been made clear, will consider any further evidence on the rest. “

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin said the boat detained on Thursday was not on the EU’s approved list of British fishing vessels, and the director of the regional government “immediately issued” an order to hijack the boat to the French port of Le Havre. A second boat was fined for failing to comply with orders authorizing the French authorities to board the ship to carry out checks, according to the press release tweeted by Girardin. Additional checks carried out by the French maritime gendarmes revealed no other infringements of fishing regulations.

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Joseph Ataman reported from Paris, Martin Goillandeau reported from London.


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