France Detains British Trawler Amid Fishing Rights Dispute

By Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

French authorities have detained a British trawler for fishing in French territorial waters without a licence amid an ongoing tussle for post-Brexit fishing rights.

The detention of the vessel took place the same day French authorities announced further retaliatory measures over the UK’s refusal to license more French trawlers to fish in its waters.

French authorities say they’ve stepped up surveillance of fishing vessels during negotiations on licensing, with French maritime gendarmes making multiple checks during the night on fishing vessels off the northern French port of Le Havre.

According to the French maritime ministry, two boats were fined on Oct. 27 after one failed to comply with police checks and the other was found to be without a proper licence.

English fishing industry representatives have accused the French government of politicising the dispute over licenses and ramping up rhetoric ahead of the upcoming French presidential election.

The vessel’s captain could face criminal charges, with his catch confiscated, according to the French maritime ministry.

The French government said that after Nov. 2, extra customs checks will be imposed on British goods.

European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune signalled that France would be forceful in the dispute.

“So now we need to speak the language of strength, since that seems to be the only thing this British government understands,” Beaune told news channel CNews.

Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, told the BBC that descending into a “tit for tat” relationship was “unhelpful.”

“It may be normal enforcement action, but against the background of the threatening noises coming from the French government … it’s very concerning,” he said. “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.

“It’s a bit strange because the French fleets fish much more in UK waters than we fish in their waters.”

A UK government spokesperson described the threats from France as “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,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also noted that the UK has granted 98 percent of EU license applications to fish in British waters.

Negotiations between the UK and the European Commission, the EU executive, over the dispute on fishing rights have continued this week.

Additional customs checks on goods travelling between Britain and the continent via the Channel Tunnel and ferries could seriously disrupt trade flows just as businesses stock up for the year-end festive period.

PA and Reuters contributed to this article.

Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.