British fishing vessel still held in France, owner says

Boxes of scallops fished in the UK waters are pictured at the port of Granville, Normandy, France on Nov 1, 2021. France has threatened to bar British boats from some of its ports and tighten checks on boats and trucks carrying British goods if more French vessels aren't licensed to fish in UK waters by Oct 2, 2021. French fishing crews stood their ground, demanding a political solution to a local dispute that has become the latest battleground between Britain and the European Union. (NICOLAS GARRIGA / AP)

LONDON – A British scallop dredger seized by France is still being held at the port of Le Havre, the owner of the ship said on Tuesday, after a British minister said the vessel had been released by French authorities.

Post-Brexit bickering over fish culminated last Wednesday in the French seizure of the British dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, in French waters near Le Havre.

Earlier, British Environment Secretary George Eustice said he understood the vessel had been freed by France

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"As far as we are aware, the vessel remains held at the port of Le Havre at least until the hearing tomorrow," Andrew Brown, a director of Macduff Shellfish which owns the Cornelis Gert Jan, told Reuters.

Earlier, British Environment Secretary George Eustice said he understood the vessel had been freed by France.

Asked if the impounded vessel had been released, Eustice told Sky: "Yes. I understand that that vessel has now been released."

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Spokesmen for the environment ministry did not return calls and did not answer the phone. Ship tracking data shows the vessel in Le Havre.

A Reuters journalist in Le Havre said the vessel remained berthed at the dockside on Tuesday morning, and there was no sign of preparations to cast off. Members of the crew declined to comment.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he was postponing trade sanctions on Britain so that negotiators from both sides could work on new proposals to defuse their dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights. 

"It's a decision by the French to step back from the threats they made," Eustice told Sky. "We welcome that."