French court frees UK trawler impounded in fishing rights deadlock

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A French court ruled on Wednesday that a British trawler seized by French authorities could return home, quashing an earlier request asking its captain to post a bond of 150,000 euros ($ 174,000), a lawyer for the captain.

The Cornelis Gert Jan was seized last week, with French authorities claiming he was caught fishing for scallops in French territorial waters without a proper permit.

Lawyer for the Irish captain, Jondy Ward, said earlier the vessel was a pawn in a wider political row between Paris and London over fishing rights after Britain left the European Union.

The ship tracking website marinetraffic.com showed the vessel was still moored Wednesday evening in the French port of Le Havre, where it was impounded. His declared destination was listed on the site as “FREEDOMMMM”.

“We are obviously delighted and relieved that the vessel can leave and our crew can return home,” Andrew Brown, manager of the trawler, told Reuters.

“We are also very happy that the courts did not issue any bonds for the release of the vessel. We are just relieved that the crew, who remain in a good mood, can go home, ”he said.

The French authorities had initially demanded the deposit of 150,000 euros in exchange for the authorization of the captain and the ship to leave French jurisdiction pending a trial which is scheduled for next year.

France and Britain came this week on the brink of a cross-Channel trade war, with Paris alleging that London was refusing French trawler fishing licenses to which they were entitled under a post-Brexit deal.

Britain has said it honored the deal and accused France of blowing up the case disproportionately. Paris had threatened to tighten controls on trucks and products from Great Britain and to ban British trawlers from docking in French ports.

But France pulled out at the last minute and now says it will make another attempt to negotiate a solution with Britain.

Senior British and French officials are due to meet on Thursday for talks on the issue.

(Reuters)

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