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France-UK row ‘another kick in teeth’ for Scottish fishing industry

Scottish-registered scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, which was impounded by France amid the post-Brexit fishing row.

The fishing industry is being treated as “collateral damage” by the UK Government in a post-Brexit dispute with France, the SNP claim.

Macduff shellfish trawler Cornelis Gert Jan was impounded by France amid accusations it was fishing in the country’s waters without a proper licence.

The diplomatic storm was triggered by France threatening sanctions over what it perceives as a refusal to issue licences to its trawlers to operate in UK waters.

There is yet to be a breakthrough in talks between the two countries but Downing Street said it is confident France will not resume its threats to increase checks or block British boats from French ports in the “coming days”.

Demand for answers

The SNP’s Defra spokeswoman, Deirdre Brock, wrote to UK Environment Secretary George Eustice seeking clarification on the issue that led to the north-east owned vessel being detained in France and urging him to set the record straight over where responsibility lies on issuing licences.

SNP Defra spokeswoman Deirdre Brock has written to the UK Government for answers.

The MP said: “This is another example of Scotland paying the price for a Brexit we didn’t vote for – and once again it is our fishing industry that is collateral damage in a dispute caused by the UK government.

“The responsibility for issuing licenses lies with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and therefore it is DEFRA’s duty to get to the bottom of this.

“A week has passed and still the UK government is unable to provide us with answers as to why the scalloper seems to have dropped off the list of licensed vessels.

“The UK Government has been all over the place on this issue – unaware of their responsibilities and issuing the wrong information.

The UK will hold further meetings on post-Brexit arrangements.

“That is absolutely not good enough when we have had a Scottish scalloper and crew detained in France.

“The Secretary of State must clarify immediately what caused this problem in the first place.”

Ms Brock claimed those in the industry have been forced to “reconsider visits to their usual fishing grounds” in the normally busy pre-Christmas period and said the “whole debacle has just been another kick in the teeth for Scotland’s fishing industry”.

Scottish vessel set free

The Scottish-registered scallop dredger left the northern French port of Le Havre on Wednesday evening after being held there since last week.

Speaking earlier this week, Cornelis skipper Jondy Ward explained that French maritime police detained the trawler last week for not being on a European register when it was fishing off the Normandy coast.

Cornelis skipper Jondy Ward preparing to leave France after a court hearing. Photo: PA

He added he did not know if it was an error on the part of UK or French officials but said the boat was “definitely” caught in the middle of the Franc0-British spat over post-Brexit fishing arrangements.

UK fisheries envoy and Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said: “It is entirely predictable that the SNP have sought to turn recent events towards their obsession with constitutional matters, instead of seeking to support our fishing and seafood industry.

“Because this case is under investigation, I am limited to what I can say specifically but I am glad to see the scalloper and its crew have been released. ”

He urged the SNP to work with the UK Government to “help address the situation, rather than use this unfortunate incident to attempt to score political points”.

Brexit minister Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune held talks on Thursday in a bid to ease tensions.

Following the meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the French government had assured it will not immediately restore the threats as talks continue.

The UK Government has insisted the overwhelming majority of applications for licences has been granted.

Paris has insisted stringent measures remain “on the table” if a deal cannot be reached.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Control and enforcement of vessels is a routine activity and we have condemned the action taken by the French in this case.

“As this case is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, we are unable to comment further.”