Royal Navy warships should intervene in the ‘scallop wars’, Tory MP says

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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Royal Navy warships should intervene to help British fishermen in the ‘scallop wars’, a Tory MP has said.

The call came after talks between the UK and France to end a dispute over scallop fishing in the English Channel ended without agreement.

Crews clashed last month over laws that allow British boats to gather scallops year-round, but place restrictions on French vessels.

Some 35 French boats confronted five British craft off the coast of northern France, with reports of rocks and smoke bombs being hurled at UK vessels.

Tory MP Philip Hollobone, speaking in the Commons, said that British fishermen had the ‘moral right’ to fish in the region and called for the Royal Navy to assist.

He said: ‘If this fishing is taking place outside of French territorial waters why can't the Royal Navy accompany our ships back into those fishing grounds?

‘If we've got fishery protection vessels and type 23 frigates permanently positioned in the Channel, surely the Royal Navy should be at sea with our fishermen to protect their livelihoods?’

Environment minister George Eustice responded by saying it was the responsibility of the French authorities to police and enforce fishing activity in the area.

He told MPs that he had written to his French counterpart to express his ‘disappointment’ at an agreement not being reached to end the scallop wars in the English Channel.

He told the Commons: ’The UK Government has offered to assist French enforcement authorities with MMO (Marine Management Organisation) personnel should they want to consider joint operations given the risk of further altercations.

‘I have also asked the French government to consider the alternative options available to them.

‘Firstly, it seems to me that putting back in place the agreement for the over 15-metre fleet, which has stood the test of time over the last five years, would be preferable to no agreement at all and I hope the French industry will reconsider their position in this regard.

’Secondly, it is open to the French government to lift the domestic restrictions they have in place earlier than they normally would in order to address concerns that their industry has expressed about the lack of a level playing field.

‘The UK industry is legally allowed to fish in the Bay of Seine. They have shown considerable restraint during the negotiations and I welcome their cooperation and understanding.’

Mr Eustice said he has emphasised the ‘absolute need for safety to remain paramount’ and he hoped a ‘mutually beneficial outcome might still be agreed’.

Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said livelihoods of communities are ‘being hurt’ by not being allowed to fish in the area.

She said the French navy should have stopped the ‘appalling violence’ and sought assurances over the measures in place to stop it happening again.

Ms Hayman added: ‘As we await the publication of the Fisheries Bill, the industry is looking to Government for some backbone and for the minister to fight for them, their livelihoods and their communities.’

She said ministers who ‘failed to find their voice over the scallops wars’ would be responsible for sealing a deal with the EU on quotas and access to waters.