France detains British trawler amid ongoing fishing disputes
By Mike Bedigan, PA
French authorities have detained a British trawler amid an ongoing dispute over fishing rights.
Two boats were fined on Wednesday after one failed to comply with checks by police and the other was found not to hold a proper licence, according to the French maritime ministry.
Members of the fishing industry said the incident has been “politicised” by the French, who are “determined” to escalate the issue.
A statement posted by French maritime minister Annick Girardin said checks had been carried out by authorities on boats in the Baie de Seine, near Le Havre, in the north of the country.
One trawler was fined for obstructing checks after it initially refused a request to be boarded by police, the statement said.
It was later not found to have been in breach of regulations.
The ministry said the second boat was not on a list of UK vessels with licences granted by the European Commission and France.
The boat was then ordered to divert to Le Havre.
Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the body representing fishermen in England, said descending into a “tit for tat” relationship between the nations was “unhelpful”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “It may be normal enforcement action but against the background of the threatening noises coming from the French government… it’s very concerning.
“France seems determined to escalate this issue about licences and I suppose we have to wonder why.
“There’s a presidential election coming up in France and all the signs are that the rhetoric has been ramped up ahead of that on the fishing issue.”
Mr Deas added: “(The amount of) UK vessels landing into French ports is not massive.
“It’s a bit strange because the French fleets fish much more in UK waters than we fish in their waters.
“Therefore if we descend into a tit for tat relationship, I think the French fleet are very much more exposed – I don’t think that’s a very helpful way to go.
“It’s a strange direction for the French to take, which is why we conclude that this has all been politicised.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “France’s threats are disappointing and disproportionate, and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.
“The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) and wider international law, and, if carried through, will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response.
“We will be relaying our concerns to the EU Commission and French government.
“The UK stands by its commitments in the TCA and has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in our waters.
“All our decisions have been fully in line with this commitment.
“We also support Jersey and Guernsey’s handling of fisheries licensing decisions, which has been entirely in line with the provisions of the TCA.”