The UK government summoned the French ambassador to the Foreign Office and accused France of breaking international law after police boats stopped two British trawlers in a row over fishing rights
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The battle between the UK and France over Channel fishing rights has exploded after French authorities detained one British trawler and fined the skipper of another.
French Ambassador Catherine Colonna will be summoned to the Foreign Office in a rare diplomatic rebuke over the issue, Downing Street said tonight.
In a terse statement, the UK government accused France of breaking international law.
There have been ongoing tensions between the two countries since Brexit.
And these escalated on Wednesday when French police patrol boats stopped two British trawlers fishing in the Baie de Seine off the coast of Le Havre.
Andrew Brown, director of Macduff Shellfish said: “Scallop vessel Cornelis was boarded by the French authorities and ordered into the French port of Le Havre while legally fishing in French waters.
“Our vessel is another pawn in the dispute between the UK and France on the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement.”
A UK Government Spokesperson said Brexit Minister Lord Frost chaired a meeting earlier today to consider the UK response.
The spokesperson said: “The proposed French actions are unjustified and do not appear to be compatible on the EU’s part with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) or wider international law.
“We regret the confrontational language that has been consistently used by the French government on this issue, which makes this situation no easier to resolve.
“We have raised our concerns strongly with both the French and the EU Commission. As a next step, the Foreign Secretary has instructed Minister Morton to summon the French Ambassador.
“We repeat that the Government has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in the UK’s waters and, as has consistently been made clear, will consider any further evidence on the remainder.”
The Cornelius was still in Le Havre today. It was unclear what has happened to the captain or crew, but the seas ministry said punishments may include confiscation of its catch and immobilisation of the vessel pending payment.
France Seas Minister Annick Girardin, 57, said checks on the British vessels were standard during the scallop fishing season. But she added they had also been undertaken against “the backdrop of the tightening of controls in the Channel, in the context of discussions on licences with the UK and the European Commission”.
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She said France will be speaking to the EU about retaliatory measures, including blocking British vessels from landing their catch in France and potentially cutting power to Jersey and Guernsey.
Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the body representing our fishers, said the descent into a “tit for tat” relationship was “unhelpful”
Downing St has warned France against taking ‘disproportionate’ action.
France is furious that Britain has refused to grant its fishermen the full number of licences to operate inside our waters they claim they are entitled to.
From November 2, Paris said, it would impose extra customs checks on British goods entering France, raising the prospect of more economic pain ahead of Christmas for Britain, on top of labour shortages and spiralling energy prices.
France’s EU affairs minister, Clément Beaune, said his country will “now use the language of force”.