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British trawler detained by France amid fishing row leaves Le Havre after a week

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David Sailor –

A Scottish trawler detained in France for a week for fishing in French waters without a licence has been released.

The Cornelis Gert Jan fishing vessel left the port of Le Havre late on Wednesday afternoon after a decision by the Rouen court of appeal, which authorised the boat “to leave Le Havre immediately without having to pay bail,” the captain’s lawyer Mathieu Croix told AFP.

The state had requested the detention of the trawler pending the payment of a €150,000 bond.

Macduff Shellfish, which owns the trawler, said in a statement on its website that they “are pleased to have this matter resolved and delighted that our crew and vessel are no able to return home.”

“The crew have acted with calmness and professionalism throughout the entire incident. They are in good spirits, looking forward to returning to their loved ones and are grateful for all the messages of support received from the British public,” the statement also said.

The 36-metres-long trawler was diverted to Le Havre last Wednesday after a control by French authorities found that it had fished more than two tonnes of scallops without a licence.

According to the prosecutor, the boat’s captain faces a €75,000 fine and administrative sanctions.

French authorities have increased controls amidst a dispute over fishing rights with the UK.

The French government says around half of the fishing licences requested by French fishermen have not been approved and accuses the UK of not respecting the deal struck before the country’s final departure from the bloc.

The post-Brexit agreement with the European Union said fishermen could continue to fish in British waters if they obtained a licence and proved that they previously were fishing there.

Paris says however that a lot of the French boats who fish in British waters are small, artisanal, enterprises that do not necessarily have the technology to prove they had accessed British waters for years.

The dispute has seen France threaten to close its ports to some British vessels, increase customs checks on goods coming from the United Kingdom and cut the power supply to the island of Jersey — a self-governing dependency of the British Crown.

The UK has flatly denied the accusation and branded the French threats “disappointing and disproportionate”. It also argued that if France moved ahead with its threats, it would be in breach of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

France originally planned for the measures to come into force on November 2 but withheld their implementation to allow for more talks.

British Brexit Minister David Frost is expected in Paris on Thursday to discuss the issue with Clément Beaune, France’s Europe Minister.

A UK government spokesperson said earlier this week that Britain is “ready to continue intensive discussions on fisheries, including considering new evidence to support the remaining licence applications.”

“We welcome France’s acknowledgement that in-depth discussions are needed to resolve the range of difficulties in the UK/EU relationship,” they added.

The two men will then travel to Brussels on Friday for a meeting at the European Commission, according to French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.

“My colleague Clement Beaune will meet Mr Frost (Thursday) in Paris on this subject, and there will be another meeting on Friday at the European Commission,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“I want to remind you that this is first and foremost a European issue and therefore the meeting at the European Commission will be very important and we will have to wait” for its outcome before any sanctions are implemented, he insisted.

According to an EU source, Frost is due to meet Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic to discuss the Northern Ireland protocol and not fishing.

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