The Cornelis Gert Jan, which steamed into Shoreham, West Sussex, early on Thursday morning, was held for ‘obstructing control’ and for ‘not being on the list of vessels given licences by the United Kingdom and the EU’
A British boat held by the French for alleged illegal fishing arrived back in England today as crunch talks to end the escalating licensing crisis were set to begin in Paris.
The Cornelis Gert Jan steamed into Shoreham, West Sussex, early on Thursday morning following a week on the quay in the Normandy port of Le Havre.
It comes as France prepares to ban British seafood imports in retaliation for not getting enough fishing licenses from the UK.
The seized boat was held for ‘obstructing control’ and for ‘not being on the list of vessels given licences by the United Kingdom and the EU’, a French Maritime Ministry spokesman said.
He added: “These controls, customary during the scallop fishing season, are part of the tightening of controls in the Channel, in the context of discussions on licenses with the United Kingdom and the European Commission.”
But – despite being allowed to return home without paying a £125,000 bail bond – her skipper, Jondy Ward, still faces criminal trial back in France in August.
This will be one of the key issues discussed by Brexit Minister Lord Frost when he arrives in Paris today, when he will call for an end to French threats ‘once and for all’.
He is due to meet the outspoken French Europe Minister Clement Beaune who has said ‘we need to speak the language of force’ because ‘it is the only thing this (British) government understands’.
Such aggressive rhetoric has included threats by the French to wreak havoc on cross-Channel trade and even to shut down power supplies to the Channel Islands.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called off plans to block British trawlers from offloading catches in French ports and to introduce new checks on lorries arriving in the country.
But his spokesman Gabriel Attal has now warned that sanctions will still go ahead unless Lord Frost offers significant concessions.
“All options are on the table’, said Mr Attal. ‘We may need to implement those measures if we do not reach an agreement.”
Under the Brexit trade deal, French vessels are able to fish in the area between six and 12 miles from the UK’s shores until 2026 if they can prove they had previously been operating in those waters.
But some boats have had their applications for permits refused because they have not provided sufficient documentation.
Many have been accused of fabricating information in an attempt to get their licences.
Downing Street has insisted it was not looking at weakening the evidence requirements for granting licences as part of attempts to negotiate a solution to the dispute.
The Scottish-registered scallop dredger Cornelis Gert Jan docked at Shoreham, near Brighton, at 4.46am on Thursday.
Her owners, Macduff Shellfish, have accused the French of using her as a ‘pawn’ in the escalating dispute.
Extreme threats suggested by the French have included cutting off electricity to the Channel Islands.
Power is supplied to Jersey and Guernsey by undersea cables from Normandy, meaning that it can be switched off almost instantly.