Impounded British scallop dredger sailing home from French port

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A British trawler Cornelis Gert Jan is seen in Le Havre

By Layli Foroudi and Clotaire Achi

ROUEN, France (Reuters) -A British scallop dredger impounded by French authorities sailed out of the French port of Le Havre on Wednesday evening and was heading home, ending a stand-off that aggravated tensions between Paris and London over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Earlier on Wednesday, a court in the French city of Rouen had ruled the vessel, the Cornelis Gert Jan, was free to leave, overturning a demand that its captain pay a 150,000 euro ($174,000) bond, a lawyer for the captain told Reuters.

The vessel was seized last week, with French authorities saying it had been caught fishing for scallops in French territorial waters without a proper license.

The lawyer for the Irish captain Jondy Ward said the vessel was a pawn in a wider political row between Paris and London over fishing rights after Britain's departure from the European Union.

Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com showed the vessel left Le Havre at around 1800 (1700 GMT) and was heading away from the French coast at a speed of 7.4 knots.

It gave its course as the port of Shoreham, on the south coast of England, according to the website.

"We are obviously delighted and relieved that the vessel can leave and our crew can get home," Andrew Brown, a director of the trawler, told Reuters after the court ruling.

"We are also very pleased the courts have not set any bond for the release of the vessel. We are just relieved that the crew, who remain in good spirits, are able to head home," he said.

The French authorities had initially demanded the 150,000 euro bond in exchange for allowing the captain and the vessel to leave French jurisdiction pending a trial which has been scheduled for next year.

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

Britain said it was honouring the deal, and accused France of blowing the affair out of all proportion. Paris had threatened to step up checks on trucks and produce arriving from Britain and to bar British trawlers docking in French ports.

But France pulled back at the last minute and now says it will make a fresh attempt to negotiate a solution with Britain. Senior British and French officials are to meet for talks on the issue on Thursday.

($1 = 0.8635 euros)

(Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Writing by GV De Clercq and Christian Lowe; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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