Today, George Eustice, Environment Secretary, urged France to stop its ‘unacceptable fishing row threats’. He warned that the UK would retaliate if Paris escalates it. 

French ministers have stated that they will block British vessels from French ports and tighten vessel inspections if the UK doesn’t agree to give out more post-Brexit fishing licenses by Tuesday next. 

Mr Eustice said the threats are ‘completely disproportionate’ and represent a ‘clear breach’ of the Brexit deal and EU law as he said Paris must now ‘calm this down and remove these threats’. 

Today, the Foreign Office summons the French ambassador to explain France’s actions. Mr Eustice suggests that the matter could be raised at the highest levels. 

He said that it was possible that Boris Johnson would confront French President on the row at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. It starts on Sunday.    

Yesterday’s fishing row was stepped up after a UK trawler was taken into France by France, amid fears that the friction could lead to a full-blown trade war.  

Two Royal Navy patrol vessels were last evening said to be in a state of high readiness’ in case there was further fallout. However there was no immediate indication they would be required. 

After French authorities claimed it did not possess a licence, the Cornelis Gérard Jan was directed to divert to Le Havre.

The boss of the trawler claimed that his vessel was being used in a fishing dispute as a pawn and attacked the ‘politically motivated French.

It emerged this morning that the skipper of the trawler is to go on criminal trial and faces a fine equivalent to more than £63,000.

Prosecutors from Le Havre confirmed that Captain Cornelis Gertjan will appear before judges August 11. 

He has been charged with ‘acts of unauthorised sea fishing in French maritime salt waters by a third party vessel to the European Union’. 

‘He now faces a fine of €75,000 (£63,000) euros as well as administrative sanctions’, said Le Havre deputy prosecutor Cyrille Fournier.

Mr Fournier said: ‘The captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan was given a summons by maritime police to appear at the hearing of the Criminal Court of Le Havre on August 11, 2022.’

The prosecutor added: ‘After verification, the captain of the vessel did not have the authorisation required to fish in the French exclusive economic zone’.

This was despite Cornelis owners claiming that the boat was legally fishing when it was taken into custody on Wednesday night.

Environment Secretary George Eustice today urged France to drop its 'unacceptable' fishing row threats as he said the UK will retaliate if Paris escalates the row, warning: 'Two can play at that came.'

Today, George Eustice, Environment Secretary, urged France to stop its ‘unacceptable fishing row threats’. He warned that the UK would retaliate if Paris escalates it.

Britain was last night preparing to retaliate after a UK trawler - the Cornelis Gert Jan (pictured right in in Le Havre, France, October 28, 2021) - was detained by France amid fears the fishing row could spark a full-blown trade war

Britain was last night planning to retaliate against a UK trawler, the Cornelis Get Jan (pictured in Le Havre France, October 28, 2021). France detained the Cornelis Get Jan amid fears that the fishing row could lead to a full-blown trade conflict.

Mr Eustice said it is 'possible' that Boris Johnson will confront French President Emmanuel Macron on the row when they meet at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow

Mr Eustice stated it is possible that Boris Johnson will confront French President Emmanuel Macron about the row when they meet at COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow

The Government has accused the French of breaking international law and France’s ambassador to London will be hauled in today to face questioning.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced that Catherine Colonna, France’s ambassador to the UK, would be expected at the Foreign Office “to explain the disappointing threats and disproportionate threats made against Britain and Channel Islands”. 

French ministers have warned that they will block British vessels from French ports and tighten controls on vessels traveling between France and the UK if there is no resolution to the post-Brexit issue regarding fishing licenses. 

They have also threatened to cut off electricity supply to the Channel Islands. 

Yesterday, UK ministers were presented with retaliatory options in case Paris continues to threaten next week. One option was further restriction of French fishing access to UK waters.

Another potential move on the table in the ‘options paper’, presented to a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Lord Frost, is the stepping up of checks on French vessels landing in UK ports, according to the Daily Telegraph. 

Today, Mr Eustice urged Paris to withdraw its threats and warned that the UK is ready to retaliate. 

Sky News spoke to him: “We believe that France’s comments regarding this are completely disproportionate and are unacceptable.

“The things they suggest doing, which is basically making it difficult at the border and close ports, is a clear violation not only of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement we have with them, but also of EU law and the official control regime.

“We don’t think it’s justified because there are very few vessels that don’t meet the requirements of the agreement.

“And so, what we are asking France is to do is clearly try to calm it down and remove these threats. They are not acceptable.”

Asked how the UK could respond to an escalation, he said: ‘The first thing is, as the UK, the way that we approach these things and the way you should is we will be talking to the European Commission. 

“In fact, when these threats were made, I spoke with the commissioner two days before. The European Commission has a role to ensure that its member countries, including France, adhere to the law and the terms of this agreement.

“We have also summoned France’s ambassador. The Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will raise these issues with her, asking her to explain and giving an account of their plans.

“We don’t know what they’ll do. They said they wouldn’t introduce these measures before Tuesday, most likely at the earliest. So we will wait to see what they do.

Pictured: French gendarmes aboard the Cornelis-Gert Jan scallop boat which has been impounded by the French Gendarmerie Maritime

Pictured: French gendarmes aboard the Cornelis-Gert Jan scallop boat which has been impounded by the French Gendarmerie Maritime

“But they can bring these into place, so two can play at that. We reserve the right not to respond in an unbalanced manner.

Mr Eustice also suggested that Mr Johnson might raise the issue with Mr Macron over the next few days. 

He said: ‘It is also possible that the Prime Minister will have an opportunity to meet President Macron obviously because they will both be gathering, getting ready for COP26.’

Mr Johnson will be with Mr Macron in the same place on Saturday as they attend the G20 summit. 

Although there is no bilateral meeting between the two, they could meet in Glasgow the next day.  

Mr Eustice suggested that Macron might be increasing his fishing row, as he is facing a difficult election next years.    

According to him, the BBC said that he didn’t know but that there was an election in France. It may be that this is a factor.

The Cornelis, its eight crewmen, and the crew remained at port last night. Crew members were told to stay onboard. It was not clear when it would be allowed leave as of Thursday night.

Its tricolour appearance is somewhat ironic with its blue hull, white bridge, and red winches. 

Andrew Brown, the director of MacDuff Shellfish, the boat’s owner, said to the Daily Mail that the French were ‘exploiting’ the confusion caused by post-Brexit paperwork.  

But Mr Brown also feared an ‘admin error’ on the UK side as the Cornelis appears to have ‘dropped off’ a list of licensed vessels British authorities sent to Europe.

Brown stated that it appeared that our vessel was another pawn in ongoing disputes between France and the UK over the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement. 

“They have the right, however, to question the paperwork if they feel that there is an error. However they don’t usually behave so heavy-handedly.” 

Two British boats were stopped by French police while fishing in Baie de la Seine on Wednesday. The captain of one was fined and let go after refusing to let officers board, but the second was detained and taken to Le Havre for allegedly fishing without a licence

French police stopped two British fishing boats while they were fishing in Baie de la Seine. After refusing to allow officers to board the boats, the captain of one boat was fined and released. The second boat was taken to Le Havre and detained for allegedly fishing illegally.

The Cornelis began a five-day fishing expedition from Shoreham-by-Sea (West Sussex) at 12.30 on Tuesday. They entered French waters that evening. 

It fished unabated until Athos, a French vessel intercepted it in Baie de la Seine around 6pm on Wednesday. The Cornelis was taken to Le Havre port.

A spokesperson for the UK Government stated last night: “Lord Frost chaired an earlier ministerial meeting today to examine the UK response to yesterday’s French measures.”

“The proposed French actions are not justified and do not seem to be compatible on the EU’s part with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, (TCA), or any other international law. We are sorry for the aggressive language used by the French government regarding this issue. This makes it difficult to resolve the situation.

“We have expressed our deep concern to both France and the EU Commission. Minister Morton has been instructed by the Foreign Secretary to summon the French Ambassador.

“We reiterate that the Government has granted 98% of EU vessel licence applications to fish in the UK’s waterways. We will also consider any additional evidence.