A Scottish fishing trawler has been seized in France and the skipper is due in court in an escalating Brexit row over fishing rights.

The Cornelis Gert Jan, a scallop dredger which operates out of the port of Shoreham in West Sussex, is operated by MacDuff Shellfish of Scotland.

MacDuff Shellfish said its fishing activity was “entirely legal” and the vessel was “legally fishing for scallop” in French waters when it was detained by the authorities.

The firm said it would defend itself against any claims and that its boat was just “another pawn” in the ongoing France-UK fishing row and urged the UK government to “defend the rights of the UK fishing fleet”.

George Eustice, the UK Environment Secretary, was asked about the case during an urgent question by the SNP’s Deidre Brock in the Commons on Thursday.

Eustice said he has asked Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government’s sea management arm, for an update on the situation and said it was too early to know exactly what has happened.

The incident comes after two boats were fined on Wednesday when one failed to comply with checks by police and the other was found not to hold a proper licence.

A statement from the French maritime ministry said checks had been carried out on the boats in the Baie de Seine, near Le Havre, in the north of the country.

One trawler was fined for obstructing checks after it initially refused a request to be boarded by police, the statement said. It was later found not to have been in breach of regulations.

The ministry said the second boat was not on a list of UK vessels with licences granted by the European Commission and France.

The boat was then ordered to divert to Le Havre.

Brock, the SNP’s Environment Food Rural Affairs spokeswoman told Eustice it was “unacceptable” that more information was not available about the situation.

She said: “ Defra has had 12 hours to get to the bottom of this. We have a skipper of a Scottish scalloping vessel due in court in La Havre this morning."

"It is simply not good enough that the Secretary of State doesn’t have answers to those questions.”

Eustice replied : “What I’ve been able to establish so far is that in respect of that vessel, they were on the list that was provided by the Marine Management Organisation initially to the European Union, the European Union therefore did grant a licence.

Eustice added: “We are seeing some reports that for some reason, they were subsequently withdrawn from the list. It’s unclear why that might have been at the moment.”

“I have been asking my officials to get to the bottom of this issue. We have been told that Marine Scotland hope to get back to us within the next hour or so.”

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