The crew of a British trawler seized by France in the port of Le Havre enjoyed a tipple of Whiskey and appeared to be in excellent spirits after they were warned to stay onboard for their safety as the fishing fallout continues.
Scottish seafood giant Macduff Shellfish, which owns the vessel, confirmed it has advised its workers to remain on the boat and was trying to get them safe passage home.
It comes after 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 dispute, warning: ‘Two can play at that game.’
But photographs showed the crew beaming and giving the thumbs-up despite being kept on-board the highjacked vessel in Le Harve this afternoon after facing a £70,000 fine for allegedly poaching in French waters.
Sailors aboard the Cornelis Gert Jan trawler vowed to toast the Queen with Scotch Whisky from their Union Jack mugs amid the fishing fallout.
The fishermen exclaimed their shock at finding themselves at the centre of a diplomatic row between Britain and France over fishing rights.
One fisherman told MailOnline: ‘We need all the help we can get! We are right in the middle of it [the international row]. We are front page news!’
The Scottish crew said they did not know when they would be able to leave port, after their boat was impounded by the French navy two days ago.
The crew of a British trawler seized by France in the port of Le Havre has been warned to stay onboard for their safety as the fishing fallout continues. Pictured: The crew onboard today
Photographs showed the crew of the high-jacked fishing boat still remained in good spirits in Le Harve this afternoon despite facing a £70,000 fine for allegedly poaching in French waters
Sailors aboard the Cornelis Gert Jan trawler vowed to toast the Queen with Scotch Whisky from their Union Jack mugs
Scottish seafood giant Macduff Shellfish, which owns the vessel, confirmed it has advised its workers to remain on the boat and was trying to get them safe passage home. Pictured: The crew onboard today
The Cornelis Gert Jan (pictured on Friday) was ordered to divert to Le Havre after French authorities said it did not have a licence
It comes after Environment Secretary George Eustice today urged France to drop its ‘unacceptable’ fishing row threats. Pictured: The crew appeared to be in high spirits onboard the scallop trawler this afternoon
The captain has been formally accused of fishing inside French territorial waters without a licence.
French ministers have said they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels if the UK does not agree to hand out more post-Brexit fishing licences by Tuesday next week.
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’.
The French ambassador is being summoned to the Foreign Office today to explain France’s actions and Mr Eustice suggested the matter could also be raised at the highest level.
He 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 which gets underway on Sunday evening.
Downing Street later confirmed that Mr Johnson will hold a ‘brush by’ meeting with Mr Macron in the margins of the G20 summit in Rome this weekend, with the PM expected to raise a ‘range of issues’.
Britain was last night preparing to retaliate after a UK trawler – the Cornelis Gert Jan (pictured right in in Le Havre, France, October 29, 2021) – was detained by France amid fears the fishing row could spark a full-blown trade war
The captain has been formally accused of fishing inside French territorial waters without a licence. Pictured: Crew of the Cornelis Gert Jan trawler are pictured on Friday
Crew members of the scallop trawler Cornelis Gert Jan are pictured this morning in Le Havre shortening the mooring line
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
Director of MacDuff Shellfish Andrew Brown told the Telegraph: ‘It appears our vessel is another political pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France on the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement,’ he said.
‘UK fishermen in general are not particularly well thought of by the French industry so we’ve told the crew to stay onboard for their own safety and we want to get them out as soon as possible.’
The fishing row stepped up a gear yesterday after a UK trawler was detained by France amid fears the friction could spark a full-blown trade war.
Two Royal Navy patrol vessels were last night said to be on a state of ‘high readiness’ in case of further fallout, but there was no immediate sign they would be required.
The Cornelis Gert Jan was ordered to divert to Le Havre after French authorities said it did not have a licence.
The trawler’s boss claimed his vessel was being used as a ‘pawn’ in the fishing dispute and blasted 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 in Le Havre confirmed the captain of the Cornelis Gert Jan will appear before judges on 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 claims by the owners of the Cornelis that the boat had been fishing legally when it was detained on Wednesday night.
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 said French ambassador Catherine Colonna would be expected to attend the Foreign Office ‘to explain the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands’.
French ministers warned this week they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels travelling between France and the UK if the issue of post-Brexit fishing licenses is not resolved by November 2.
They have also threatened the electricity supply to the Channel Islands.
UK ministers were yesterday reportedly presented with retaliatory options should Paris press ahead with its threat next week, with one such option including further restricting 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.
Mr Eustice this morning urged Paris to withdraw its threats as he warned the UK stands ready to retaliate.
He told Sky News: ‘We think that the comments that have been made by France on this are completely disproportionate, they are unacceptable.
‘The things that they are suggesting doing which is basically starting to be difficult at the borders and close ports and so on, this is a clear breach not only of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that we have got with them but also of EU law, the official control regime.
‘We don’t really think it is justified at all because this is a very small number of vessels that just don’t qualify under the terms of the agreement that was reached.
‘And so what we are asking France to do is obviously try to calm this 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 I spoke to the commissioner two days ago when these threats were first made, because the European Commission has got a role and a responsibility to make sure its member states, including France, abide by the law, abide by the terms of the agreement that was reached.
‘We have also summoned the French ambassador. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is going to raise these issues with her and ask her to explain and give an account of what they intend to do.
‘We don’t know what they will do. They say they wouldn’t introduce these measures until Tuesday, probably at the earliest, so we will see what they do.
‘But obviously if they do bring these into place, well two can play at that game. We obviously reserve the ability to be able to respond in a proportionate way.’
Mr Eustice also suggested Mr Johnson could raise the issue with Mr Macron in the coming 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 and Mr Macron will be in the same room on Saturday and Sunday before COP26 as they attend a G20 summit in Rome.
Downing Street said there will be a ‘brush by’ meeting between the two leaders in the margins of the summit in Italy.
The fishermen (one is pictured carrying Union Jack mugs) exclaimed their shock at finding themselves at the centre of a diplomatic row between Britain and France over fishing rights
Crew member of British trawler the Cornelis Gert Jan holds a bottle of whiskey and a mug showing the union flag as he prepares to make a toast
The fishing row stepped up a gear yesterday after a UK trawler was detained by France amid fears the friction could spark a full-blown trade war. Pictured: Crew laughing and smiling on board the Cornelis Gert Jan on Friday
Two Royal Navy patrol vessels were last night said to be on a state of ‘high readiness’ in case of further fallout, but there was no immediate sign they would be required. Pictured: Crew members on the trawler on Friday
The trawler’s boss claimed his vessel was being used as a ‘pawn’ in the fishing dispute and blasted the ‘politically motivated’ French. Pictured: Crew members on board the Cornelis Gert Jan on Friday
Pictured: French gendarmes aboard the Cornelis-Gert Jan scallop boat which has been impounded by the French Gendarmerie Maritime
Mr Eustice suggested Mr Macron could be stepping up the fishing row because he is facing a difficult election next year.
He told the BBC: ‘I don’t know, but there obviously is an election coming up in France, it may be that is a factor in this.’
The Cornelis and its eight crewmen languished in port last night, with the crew being told to stay on board. As of Thursday night, there was no indication when it would be allowed to leave.
With its blue hull, white bridge and red winches it has a somewhat ironic French tricolour appearance.
Andrew Brown, director of the boat’s owners, MacDuff Shellfish, told the Daily Mail the French were ‘exploiting’ supposed confusion over 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.
Mr Brown said: ‘It appears our vessel is another pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France on the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement.
‘They have the right to query things if they feel there is some kind of error in any of the paperwork, but they don’t usually behave in such a heavy-handed manner.’
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
The Cornelis set off on a five-day fishing trip from Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, at 12.30am on Tuesday and entered French waters that evening.
It fished uninterrupted until French vessel Athos intercepted it in the Baie de la Seine at around 6pm on Wednesday. The Cornelis was escorted into Le Havre port.
A UK Government spokesman said last night: ‘Lord Frost chaired a ministerial meeting earlier today to consider the UK response to the measures set out by France yesterday.
‘The proposed French actions are unjustified and do not appear to be compatible on the EU’s part with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) or wider international law. We regret the confrontational language that has been consistently used by the French government on this issue, which makes this situation no easier to resolve.
‘We have raised our concerns strongly with both the French and the EU Commission. As a next step, the Foreign Secretary has instructed Minister Morton to summon the French Ambassador.
‘We repeat that the Government has granted 98 per cent of licence applications from EU vessels to fish in the UK’s waters and, as has consistently been made clear, will consider any further evidence on the remainder.’