How a small fishing boat became a “political pawn” in an international dispute between Britain and France

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“The captain knew he had the license and handed it over. But the French police would not accept it, ”said a source.

“They told him to follow them to Le Havre. It was confusing and quite painful for the crew.

Arrived in Le Havre, the police ordered the captain to report the next morning at 9 a.m. to a French police station, where he was questioned for five hours alongside a lawyer hired by the owners of the boat.

Eventually, the captain was informed that he risked a fine of E 75,000 and the threat of further criminal prosecution for fishing 2,160 kg of scallops without a valid license.

The Cornelis was still moored in Le Havre on Thursday, the crew being forbidden to leave until further notice.

Andrew Brown, manager of MacDuff Shellfish, said the boat was fishing legally and suggested the vessel had “crossed the list” of approved licenses due to a clerical error on the UK side.

But he said the French decision to step up security checks on the UK fishing fleet was a deliberate act aimed at intimidating UK fishermen and forcing the UK government to back down.

“Access to French waters for the UK scallop fleet is provided as part of the Brexit fishing deal. Macduff’s fishing activity is fully legal,” he said.

“Our ship appears to be another political pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France over the implementation of the Brexit fisheries deal.”

Zero tolerance approach

French ministers were happy to admit that the seizure of the Cornelis was part of a new “zero tolerance” regime in retaliation for the government’s refusal to grant more access to French fishermen to operate in UK coastal waters. United.

“We actually started the security checks tonight, this allowed us to embark and search two British boats which did not respect the rules so no tolerance, no indulgence”, declared Clément Beaune, French Minister for Europe.

“We have to speak the language of force because I fear that is the only thing this British government understands.

“You cannot be in a climate of trust with a neighbor who does not respect the rules.”

George Eustice, Britain’s Environment Secretary, insisted the vessel had a license to fish in the area.

“They were on the list initially provided by the Marine Management Organization to the European Union. The European Union therefore granted a license,” he told Parliament.

“We are seeing reports that for some reason they were subsequently taken off the list. It is not clear why this could have been the case at this time.”

Defra officials were investigating how the apparent error had occurred on Thursday.

“Not war, it’s a fight”

France is furious that only 15 permits have been granted to French fishermen to operate in British coastal waters out of 47 requests, and this week announced a series of sanctions it would take against Britain until new permits will be granted by November 2.

Officials from the European Commission and the UK are currently stuck in “boat-to-boat” negotiations on excluded vessels.

Paris has threatened to step up its border controls on goods coming from Britain, to block access for British fishing boats to its ports and to increase tariffs on the supply of electricity to the Channel Islands . France could also deliberately derail post-Brexit talks on the Northern Ireland protocol, it has been warned.

Annick Girardin, French Minister for Maritime Affairs, told French radio RTL Matin that Britain’s “non-compliance” with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (ACC) is “unacceptable”.

“It’s not war, it’s a fight,” she said.

Pascal Coquet, president of the National Committee of Scallop Fishermen, said. “We must put an end to this fraud. Our boats are not allowed to approach the English coast because they do not have the permits. We cannot let them continue like this.”

In Jersey, Grégory Guida, the Minister of the Interior, born in Paris, declared that the threats made him “to be ashamed to be French”.

“If France said it was going to do it unilaterally, then one wonders why it is part of the EU,” he said.

“I’m quite ashamed to be French at the moment. They show complete disregard for EU protocols and complete disregard for the truth. It feels like we’re back in kindergarten, it’s really ridiculous.

When asked if the UK or Jersey could take countermeasures against France, Mr Guida replied: “Yes. But if we do, I’m sure we will act like adults and use them. protocols and act within international law to do so. ”


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