Brexit: France detains British trawler amid dispute over fishing rights

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Two English ships were fined during checks off Le Havre, France  (AP)
Two English ships were fined during checks off Le Havre, France (AP)

France has detained a British trawler fishing in waters off its coast, amid an escalating dispute over fishing rights.

Two English ships were fined during checks off Le Havre, a port in France’s Normandy region, French maritime minister Annick Girardin said in a statement released on Thursday.

“This Wednesday, two English ships were fined during classic checks off Le Havre. The first did not comply spontaneously ... the second did not have a licence to fish in our waters,” the statement said.

The French minister added that one of the ships was “diverted to the quay and handed over to the judicial authority”.

In response to an urgent parliamentary question on Thursday morning, UK environment and fisheries secretary George Eustice said the government understood that the vessel was still being detained.

The incident is the latest in a feud between Britain and France over fishing rights in the aftermath of Brexit.

Multiple checks on fishing vessels off Le Havre were conducted overnight by French maritime gendarmes, according to the French maritime ministry.

France is angry with the UK for not granting its fishing boats the expected number of licences to operate inside British waters. The country said it would impose retaliatory measures that could come into effect from 2 November if there was no progress in negotiations, including barring British fishing boats from some French ports.

The French government suggested that it could restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands, according to the Associated Press, as well as increasing customs checks for goods that enter Europe through its borders, and that it could stop British fishing boats from unloading in its ports.

French officials are reported to have said that Britain has failed to honour its word over fishing since Brexit. Another area of contention is Britain’s demand to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol, which aims to maintain the integrity of the European Union (EU) single market.

Britain, on the other hand, said it had issued fishing licences to vessels with a track record of operating in its waters in the years leading up to its withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020.

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