British trawler freed as France backs down in Brexit fishing row

3 November 2021, 17:01 | Updated: 3 November 2021, 18:07

Tensions continue to rise between the UK and France over fishing sanctions.
Tensions continue to rise between the UK and France over fishing sanctions. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

A French court has freed a British trawler amid an ongoing row over post-Brexit fishing licences.

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The court ruled on Wednesday that the boat could sail home, overturning a previous demand for the captain to pay a 150,000 euro deposit, according to Reuters.

The Cornelis Gert Jan was seized last week, being detained near Le Havre in northern France.

Irish captain Jondy Ward was was charged in relation to fishing without a licence.

It comes despite the captain saying he had heard "no news at all" about the French court's decision on whether to release the vessel earlier on Wednesday.

Tensions between the two countries have continued to rise in recent weeks, with France threatening to toughen port and border checks unless the UK made a 'significant move' in coming days.

However, Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that he had extended the deadline for new sanctions by a day as the war of words between both nations continued.

The dispute began over the UK refusing to grant licences to certain French fishing boats, with the UK insisting it would only approve licences for boats meeting the criteria set out in the Brexit deal.

Read more: UK welcomes France u-turn on fishing sanctions for British trawlers

Read more: UK denies fishing rights row is resolved and puts pressure on France to 'withdraw threats'

Andrew Brown, the head of public affairs for Macduff Shellfish, which owns the Cornelis Gert Jan, said: "We are pleased to have this matter resolved and delighted that our crew and vessel are now able to return home.

"The crew have acted with calmness and professionalism throughout the entire incident.

"They are in good spirits, looking forward to return to their loved ones and are grateful for all the messages of support received from the British public."

Lawyers for Mr Ward claimed the vessel had become a pawn in the ongoing fishing row between the UK and France.

Read more: Forget 'trivial' fishing row or risk ruining crucial Cop26 talks, Boris and Macron told

Menna Rawlings, the UK's ambassador to France, welcomed the release of the Cornelis Gert Jan.

"Glad to hear the #Cornelis is free to leave Le Havre and that the Brits on board are on their way home tonight," she tweeted.

"A huge thank you to our @UKinFrance team for their excellent consular support."