In an ongoing spat with the UK over fishing rights, France is “open to talks,” but only if London respects its post-Brexit obligations, PM Jean Castex has said, in the wake of French officials detaining a British trawler.
“We are always open for talks – morning, afternoon, and evening,” Castex told journalists during a trip to the coastal region of Morbihan, in Brittany, on Thursday. Saying that “the British should respect their obligations,” the prime minister also noted that the relevant commitments had been confirmed in writing, and had to be fulfilled.
“We will ensure that our interests are respected and that the word given is respected,” Castex said.
Earlier on Thursday, France’s maritime minister, Annick Girardin, said that one British ship had been detained due to the absence of a valid license for operating in French waters. A second vessel was given a warning by the French authorities, and both have been fined. The minister linked the incidents to the row between France and the UK over licenses for fishing in the English Channel.
France claims the UK is not fulfilling its obligations agreed under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), and that British officials have issued only half the total number of licenses to which French fishermen were entitled. Paris warned London that if the dispute was not resolved by November 2, British goods being transported via France would become subject to tightened customs controls.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel called the situation regarding the trawler “disappointing,” and insisted the UK “has fulfilled all of our obligations under the TCA.” However, she said, discussions on the matter would continue.
The detained vessel’s owner, Macduff Shellfish, stated that the ship’s activity had been legal, and said the trawler had simply been “caught up” in the escalating row. In a statement published on its website and cited by UK media outlets, the Scottish company vowed to defend its rights, and called on the British government to lend its assistance in resolving matters.