The boss of the British trawler impounded in Le Havre says he is preparing to pay a £125,000 ‘ransom’ to bring his crew home, MailOnline can reveal.
Andrew Brown, director of MacDuff Shellfish from Scotland, stated that he hoped to secure Cornelis Gert Jan’s release following a court hearing tomorrow, and bring the crew back home within 48 hours.
Tomorrow, a French magistrate will hear arguments from both sides of the bitter fishery dispute at a Rouen court. The court is just yards away from the quayside on which the British trawler was impounded.
The next step is development Emmanuel MacronWarned Boris JohnsonThat FranceUnless Britain backs down in the fishing row, Britain will retaliate.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Seine-Maritime prefecture confirmed that the Cornelis would remain in the Normandy port of Le Havre unless her crew paid ‘a 150,000 euros deposit’ – the equivalent of more than £125,000.
It is far more than any money the boat may have earned during a five-day trip from France to fish scallops.
Brown stated that it was his priority to release the crew and bring them home. We expect a court hearing tomorrow, or Wednesday at the latest.
“We consider there are three outcomes from this court hearing.
‘1. The charges are dropped, and the case is dismissed. The boat and crew are now free to leave.
‘ 2. The court requires that a bond be paid in order to release the boat and crew ahead of a trial likely next year.
“3. The court refuses to release either the boat or the crew.
“We don’t expect the third scenario. We expect either the first, or the second scenario.
“If the court imposes bond, then we will discuss its size. It can take several days to raise funds and release the boat, depending on the amount of the bond.
“But I believe that our priority is to secure crew release and ensure their welfare.”
A spokesman confirmed that the Cornelis would remain in the Normandy port of Le Havre unless her crew paid ‘a 150 ,000 euros deposit’ – the equivalent of more than £125,000
The boat was detained last Wednesday by gendarmes and taken to the Le Havre quayside where they have remained eversince. Pictured: Crew onboard the Cornelis Gert Jan
The owners of the British trawler will have to pay bail of more than £125,000 before she is allowed to return the UK. Pictured: A man who is believed to be a member of the crew inside the Cornelis Gert Jan
Boris Johnson was warned by Emmanuel Macron that France would retaliate if Britain does not back down in the fishing row.
Pictured: Andrew Brown, director of Scottish firm MacDuff Shellfish, said he is preparing to pay the £125,000 ‘ransom’
Mr Brown declined the opportunity to discuss whether or not the British scallop-trawler had the proper licence to fish French waters.
He explained that these matters are part and parcel of ongoing court proceedings, so I can’t discuss them.
“This will be argued in court, by lawyers.
Mr Brown confirmed that the crew included four British and Irish men, as well as four sailors from Africa or Asia.
It comes as the French pledge to step up similar measures from this Tuesday, in retaliation for Britain not providing enough licences for their boats to fish in UK waters following Brexit.
The boat was taken into police custody last Wednesday. They were then escorted to Le Havre’s Quayside where they have remained eversince.
Their skipper, who is not being formally named, was charged with ‘acts in unauthorised sea fishing on French maritime salt waters by third-party vessels to the European Union’.
At the weekend, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of France, and Emmanuel Macron, French President, discussed the diplomatic row that was growing at the G20 in Rome.
Johnson claimed that he was ‘puzzled’ by a letter sent from Paris to the EU asking for ‘for Britain’s punishment for leaving the EU’.
Referring directly to Brexit the Prime Minister said that he did not believe that it was compatible with either the spirit or the letter the Withdrawal Agreement of Trade and Cooperation Agreement. That’s probably all that I will say about it.
Mr Macron replied, “I don’t want to escalate.” We must be serious. I don’t want to be forced to use retaliation to help our fishermen.
MacDuff Shellfish’s director, Mr Brown, claimed that she was being used as an ‘pawn’ by France and that she hadn’t done anything illegal.
Last week, Brown stated: “We are looking at the UK government to defend UK fishing fleet rights and ensure that EU fishing rights are fully respected under the Brexit fishing accord.”
Monday morning, the Cornelis moored in Le Havre with eight crew members.
The boat was leaving Shoreham, Sussex, on Tuesday morning.
France has taken her into custody in the latest in a series of disputes with the UK over fishing rights in the Channel.
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said that Britain must speak the language force because it is “the only thing this government understands”.
British critics immediately accused him of “sabre rattling”, while Annick Girardin, Paris’ Maritime Minister, said: “It’s no war, but it’s a fight.”
Other retaliatory measures taken by the French could include a blockade of major ports like Calais to stop British seafood imports.
Yesterday the French President insisted that unless Britain shifts, reprisals would occur within days.
After Johnson had told his briefing for journalists that the UK’s ‘position is unchanged’, the press conference in Rome at the conclusion of the G20 summit saw the UK adopt a combative stance.
Johnson stated at a G20 press conference that he was unable to speak for fish. For the record, I’ll only say this. I must confess that I was shocked to read a letter written by the French Prime Minister asking for punishment for Britain for leaving the EU.
“I just want to say to everyone that I don’t believe that this is compatible either with both the spirit or letter of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation agreement. That’s probably all that I’ll say about it.”
But Mr Macron stated that the ball was in Britain’s hands… If the British do not move, the measures of November 2, will have to be implemented.
French sources first claimed that Mr Johnson was able to reach a deal with Mr Macron on de-escalation in just 30 minutes during an extraordinary briefing.
As the pair attempted to come to an understanding one on one, there were no officials or cameras.
Johnson rejected this version. He said that he considered Macron a friend, but that they had a frank and wide-ranging discussion. He stated, “On fish I have to tell ya the position remains unchanged.”
The PM’s spokesperson earlier stated that France has the right to decide whether or not to back off the threats.
“We stand ready to respond should they proceed to break the Brexit agreement,” the spokesperson said.
G20 leaders visited Rome’s landmark to wave to the cameras at the end of the G20 gathering.
As the two-day summit ended in Rome, the leaders seemed to be in a happy mood. The action then moves to Glasgow for COP26
French officials have warned that they will ban UK fishing boats from certain ports and tighten customs controls on lorries entering the country carrying British goods starting Tuesday, unless more licenses are granted for their small boats to fish with British.
Other threats include a ‘go slow’ at customs, and even higher tariffs on energy bills for Jersey.
After the talks, a French aide stated to Reuters: ‘The goal for both President and Prime Minister was to work towards deescalation.
According to French sources, the two sides reached an agreement on ‘operational steps’ to end the row in the coming days.
They shared their eyes earlier as they visited the Trevi Fountain in Rome with other leaders at the G20 summit.
And Mr Macron appeared obstruct Mr Johnson in his quest to be next to Mario Draghi, an Italian host, for photos.
Clement Beaune, Europe minister, was Mr Macron’s scapegoat, adding that Britain was not being a friend, ally, and responsible partner’.
As they prepared for difficult talks about fishing, Mr Macron and Mr Johnson kept one another close.
Downing Street stated that Johnson had used the ‘unhelpful’ rhetoric from France during their showdown.
When asked if there was a specific measure that could be taken to deescalate the fishing row’s tensions, the PM’s spokesperson said: “No.” As I said, the French side would have to deescalate.
Pushed on why the French side were claiming that specific measures had been agreed, the spokesman said: ‘You would have to ask the French government… our position has not changed.’
He said, “We are ready to grant additional licences as we did throughout the years, if the evidence is presented.”
The spokesman for France said that the deadline of November 2 was not now in effect.
A spokesperson for Johnson insisted that Johnson never wanted to ‘escalate the tensions’. “We are simply continuing to enforce law as laid out in the Brexit agreement.”
The spokesman said: ‘It will be for the French to decide whether they want to step away from the threats they have made over recent days… of course we would welcome that.’
Clement Beaune (Europe minister) was Mr Macron’s attack dog. He said that Britain was not acting as a ‘friend and ally’.
The UK government insists that licences are being granted to boats where they can show proof they fished in waters prior to Brexit. Ministers have vowed not to back down.
Mr Johnson last night warned the EU not to side with France, while Brexit minister Lord Frost threatened to take legal action.
In response to Lord Frost’s tweet, Mr Beaune said: ‘After ten months, when such large amounts of licences, aimed at one country is missing, it’s not an technical issue, it’s a political decision and a breach the TCA.
“A friend, ally and responsible companion should stand by its world while complying with legal obligations.”
He stated that the retaliation actions threatened starting November 2 were proportionate’.
He stated that it was encouraging to see that the UK cares about TCA. France and the EU expect full respect and implementation of the TCA, including fishing rights, the Northern Ireland Protocol and all other matters – ratified and agreed upon – he said.
Downing Street insists that the pair are friends’. But anger is building behind-the scenes over France’s grandstanding behavior, with Mr Macron facing a presidential campaign in the spring.
One senior UK official stated: “The French have made their position clear. They don’t want to have a constructive and positive relationship but only want to prove that Brexit was a mistake.
Another comment was added: “From explicit warnings about the impending shutdown of energy supply to Jersey to threats to impose customs controls on those who do not comply with their demands this has been an organized effort to undermine and now violate the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”
Despite their preparations for a potential showdown about fisheries, Emmanuel Macron was able to get by Mr Johnson.
France has threatened port and border sanctions against the United Kingdom. This includes increased checks on British vessels and increased tariffs for energy bills in Jersey. If more fishing licences for small French boats are not issued by the UK by Tuesday, France will be threatening to take further action. Pictured: French fisherman in the fishing town of Port En Bessin
French courts have demanded a £125,000 ‘ransom’ for the release of the British fishing trawler impounded in the Le Havre port
Lord Frost yesterday blasted a ‘pattern’ of threats made by France to Britain and said the UK Government is ‘actively considering’ starting legal proceedings against the country.
The Conservative peer rallied against comments made in a letter to Ms Von Der Leyen by Jean Castex, the French prime minister, that the UK does more harm to leave the EU than it does to stay in.
Lord Frost stated: “To see it expressed this way is clearly very troubling, and very problematic in today’s context when we’re trying to solve many highly sensitive problems, including the Northern Ireland Protocol.”