Britain wants to de-escalate fishing row with France, says environment minister, as Paris releases detained trawler

The British environment minister has welcomed France’s decision to release a Scottish scallop trawler after Paris demanded London grant more fishing licences to French fishermen in an ongoing post-Brexit row.

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said that Britain wanted to de-escalate the fishing row with France, just a day after calling for Paris to withdraw its threats.  

Eustice confirmed that the Cornelis Gert Jan, a Scottish scallop trawler, had been released by the French authorities after having been impounded last week for fishing in French waters without the requisite permits. 

“It's a decision by the French to step back from the threats they made,” Eustice stated, adding, “We welcome that.” 

The environment secretary said that Britain had been implementing the post-Brexit fishing arrangement in “good faith” and that some 1,700 EU vessels have been licenced to fish in UK waters, 750 of them French.  

He noted that there were around 55 vessels that wanted to fish around the waters of Jersey but had been unable to prove that they had previously fished in those waters under the so-called reference period. 

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UK warns France it has 48 hours to withdraw threats and resolve fishing row or face legal action

Eustice claimed Britain wanted to licence any vessel that qualifies under the terms of the agreement, adding that they would be open to further dialogue on the matter. 

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss demanded that France cease its “unreasonable threats” against Britain and the Channel Islands, giving Paris 48 hours to resolve the escalating row over fisheries.

Also on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to postpone trade sanctions on the UK in order to allow dialogue to take place. 

“We welcome France’s acknowledgement that in-depth discussions are needed to resolve the range of difficulties in the UK/EU relationship,” a British government spokesperson said in a statement. Brexit minister Lord David Frost will meet with his French counterpart on Thursday. 

France had previously claimed it would sanction the UK for preventing French fishing boats from accessing Britain’s fish-rich waters. Paris even threatened to cut electricity to the crown dependency of Jersey. 

Britain claimed that they would challenge any sanction under EU mechanisms.

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