France has seized a British trawler for operating in its territorial waters without a license and fined another as a bitter dispute with the UK over access to fishing grounds escalates after Brexit.
The French Maritime Ministry said the ships were warned during maritime police checks on fishing boats off the northern port of Le Havre on Wednesday night, hours after Paris warned it needed to “speak the language of force.” with London in the middle of the smoky line and warned. of imminent sanctions.
The seized trawler, now under the control of French judicial authorities, had no evidence that it was allowed to fish in French waters, the maritime ministry said.
It was later diverted to Le Havre and moored at the dock in the port. The ship’s captain could now face criminal charges and his catch could be confiscated.
The other ship was fined for initially resisting a maritime police check.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel described the seizure as “disappointing” while Environment Minister George Eustice called for calm.
Eustice told the British Parliament that he had spoken with EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius and stressed: “It is important that we remain calm, reduce tension.”
The incidents came after France threatened retaliatory action starting next week for what it says is the UK’s refusal to grant its fishermen the full amount of licenses to operate within British waters that , according to Paris, it is justified.
The UK and the Channel Island of Jersey last month denied dozens of French fishing boats the right to operate in their territorial waters, saying they did not provide evidence to support their requests to do so.
France says the restrictions run contrary to the post-Brexit deal that London signed when it left the EU on January 31 last year.
London and Paris commercial picks
Negotiations between the UK and the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, on the dispute over fishing rights are ongoing.
After weeks of talks, UK authorities have issued more licenses, but the number still represents only 50 percent of what France believes it “is entitled to,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
Attal’s remarks came as French ministers for Europe and Maritime Affairs said in a joint statement on Wednesday that Paris will ban UK fishing vessels from designated ports and impose additional customs controls on British goods entering France from November 2, unless an acceptable agreement is reached sooner. later.
That raises the possibility of further economic pain before Christmas for the UK, which is currently facing labor shortages and rising energy prices.
Paris is also reviewing a second round of sanctions that “does not exclude” measures that would target the UK’s energy supply.
European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told CNews news channel that France needed to “speak the language of force, as it seems to be the only thing this British government understands.”
But the UK has defended its position, with officials saying that fishing licenses have been issued to vessels capable of showing a history of operations in its waters in the years before its withdrawal from the EU.
A government spokesman said on Thursday that the actions threatened by France “do not appear to be compatible” with the Brexit withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU “and broader international law”, before warning that they will be met with a adequate and calibrated response if carried out.
“The threats from France are disappointing and disproportionate and are not what we would expect from a close ally and partner,” the spokesman said.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from London, said the dispute appeared to be headed for further “escalation.”
“It is not clear how this will be resolved, because the threats are going in a very serious direction,” Simmons said.
“This is a moment of real tension between France and Britain over a number of issues,” he added, citing the dispute that erupted in the wake of the announcement of the AUKUS security pact between the UK, the US and Australia.
The trilateral agreement for the Indo-Pacific region led Australia to scrap a multi-million dollar deal with France to build conventional submarines.
Instead, it will acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology.