Britain could board more French boats in fishing dispute – UK minister

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain could order the boarding of more French vessels in retaliation for the detention by France of a British scallop trawler in French waters, a British minister said as a post-Brexit fishing dispute escalated.

Britain’s foreign minister has summoned France’s ambassador to London to explain Paris’ actions later on Friday.

“Obviously it’s always open to us to always increase the enforcement that we do on French vessels, to board more of them if that’s what they’re doing to our vessels,” British Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC television.

“There are other administrative things that we can require of vessels. It’s not something that we want to get into.”

The Cornelis Gert Jan, a scallop dredger, was escorted to the northern port of Le Havre after its crew failed to prove it was allowed to fish in French territorial waters, according to French officials.

Eustice said London’s focus for now was trying to resolve the issue with the European Commission and with France’s ambassador to London.

“We obviously reserve the ability to be able to respond in a proportionate way, ” Eustice said.

France has listed potential sanctions against Britain if there is no progress in talks, including extra customs checks on British goods from Nov. 2 and what was seen in London as a threat to cut electricity exports to Britain if talks fail.

French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie told France 2 TV on Friday that there was no progress in talks between France and Britain over post-Brexit fishing licences, and said it was right for France to consider sanctions against the UK.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by William Schomberg)

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