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Tags: Britain | France | Fishing

France Frees UK Trawler Caught up in Channel Fishing Spat

Wednesday, 03 November 2021 03:00 PM

LONDON (AP) — A British-registered scallop boat caught up in a spat between the U.K. and France over fishing licenses has been released by French authorities, its owner said Wednesday.

Andrew Brown, head of public affairs for Macduff Shellfish, which owns the scallop dredger, said the Cornelis Gert Jan had departed Le Havre in northern France. French maritime police seized the vessel off the Normandy coast last week and detained its skipper and crew.

The boat, which was detained over a paperwork infraction, has become a symbol of a bigger feud between the U.K. and France over fishing rights in the English Channel.

“We are pleased to have this matter resolved and delighted that our crew and vessel are now able to return home,” Brown said. “The crew have acted with calmness and professionalism throughout the entire incident. They are in good spirits, looking forward to return to their loved ones and are grateful for all the messages of support received from the British public.”

The two countries have traded threats and allegations for weeks, after France complained that dozens of its boats were denied licenses to fish in waters around Britain and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which are self-governing British Crown dependencies close to the coast of northern France.

Fishing is a tiny industry economically, but one that looms large symbolically for maritime nations such as Britain and France. Their dispute has spiraled into a major diplomatic incident; French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were peppered with questions about it as they attended a Group of 20 summit in Rome and the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow over the past week.

Britain says the issue is a technical one, related to some French boats’ lack of paperwork to prove they have traditionally fished in those areas.

But France sees it as a matter of principle, and has accused Britain of breaching its legally binding divorce deal with the European Union, which sets the rules for fishing in the post-Brexit era.

France has threatened to close its ports to some British boats and to impose strict checks on boats and trucks carrying U.K. goods, if more licenses are not granted. Paris also at one point suggested it might restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands, which are heavily dependent on French electricity.

Britain says a blockade would breach the Brexit withdrawal agreement. The British government has said throughout the long-running dispute that it is not engaged in a negotiation, and it is entirely up to France to end the conflict.

France originally said it would act against Britain if no resolution emerged by Tuesday, but the deadline was extended for several days while the two sides and the EU hold talks.

The impounded trawler is not one of the vessels involved in the licensing dispute. Mathieu Croix, lawyer for its skipper, Jondy Ward, said the dredger was “caught in a political game.”

“There is a whole story spun around this entire case, whereas in fact, it is a rather mundane affair over fishing in an area that is supposedly out of bounds and about licenses that may or may not have been given and catch amounts that are relatively modest,“ Croix said.

“From then on, given the current political climate, the case blew up to levels that in our view are totally disproportionate,” he said.

Follow AP's Brexit coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/brexit

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


GlobalTalk
A British-registered scallop boat caught up in a spat between the U.K. and France over fishing licenses has been released by French authorities, its owner said Wednesday.Andrew Brown, head of public affairs for Macduff Shellfish, which owns the scallop dredger, said the...
Britain,France,Fishing
567
2021-00-03
Wednesday, 03 November 2021 03:00 PM
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