France and UK fishing row: dispute over post-Brexit rights explained - and has it been resolved?

The British trawler that was seized off the French coast has now been released, the Environment secretary has confirmed

The British scallop trawler which was seized by French authorities has been released, the Environment Secretary has confirmed.

George Eustice said there will be further discussions about the incident and suggested it had come about as a result of an “administrative error”.

Previously, the foreign secretary said France had 48 hours to “back down” or risk the UK taking legal action against it, in an escalation of the ongoing fishing dispute.

Liz Truss said the French government has made “unreasonable threats” and said the UK will use the “dispute resolution mechanism” within the UK/EU trade deal to take action.

What is the dispute about between the UK and France over fishing?

The dispute with France was triggered by decisions made by the authorities in the UK and Jersey over licences for small French boats to operate in British waters, with officials arguing permission can only be given to vessels which can demonstrate a history of fishing there.

French officials seized a British trawler last week, in what was seen by many as a retaliatory move, though officials said it was fishing without a license and was picked up during routine checks.

The row prompted Truss to summon the French ambassador Catherine Colonna to question her on the “disappointing and disproportionate” threats of retaliation by Paris over what it claims is a lack of licences for French boats to fish in UK waters.

French officials have warned they will bar UK fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs checks on lorries entering the country unless more licences are granted.

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that unless Britain made a “significant move” to ease the dispute over licences to fish in British waters, Paris would introduce more stringent port and border checks from Tuesday.

“If the British don’t do any significant move, measures starting from November 2 will need to be implemented,” he warned on Sunday.

The Foreign Secretary said the UK would respond by triggering dispute resolution measures in the Brexit trade deal to seek “compensatory measures” if Macron’s administration carries out its threats.

George Eustice confirmed today (2 November) that the French have withdrawn from their threats

He told Sky News: "We've always said we want to de-escalate this and always said we have an ever-open door to discuss any further evidence France or the EU might have on any additional vessels they'd like to have licensed," he added.

"France has clearly taken a decision not to implement some of the decisions they threatened last Wednesday, we very much welcome that.

"But I think there's going to be a very important meeting on Thursday between Lord Frost and his opposite number, not just on fisheries but a wider range of issues as well."

What did Liz Truss say about the fishing dispute?

Speaking today following Macron’s comments over the weekend, Truss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Those threats are completely unwarranted. We allocated the fishing licences completely in line with what is in the trade agreement with the EU and the French need to withdraw those threats.

“Otherwise we will use the dispute resolution mechanism in the EU deal to take action.”

She added: “We are simply not going to roll over in the face of these threats.”

Speaking to Sky News, Truss again criticised the French government for making “unreasonable threats” which she called on them to withdraw.

Asked what the Government’s approach will be if the threats are not withdrawn, she said “we will use the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to take action”.

She said: “What that means is we will use the dispute resolution mechanism which could lead to taking direct action in trade.

“The French have behaved unfairly, it's not within the terms of the trade deal, and if somebody behaves unfairly in a trade deal you are entitled to take action against them and seek some compensatory measures.”

Truss said the French government must “Stop threatening UK fishing vessels, stop threatening the channel ports and accept that we are entirely within our rights to allocate the fishing licenses in line with the trade agreement as we have done.”

She said the issue “needs to be resolved within the next 48 hours” or it would lead to legal action.