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‘Used As a Pawn’: Owner of British Trawler Detained by France Speaks Out As Fishing Rights Row Intensifies

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France has detained a British scallop trawler owned by Macduff Shellfish and given a verbal warning to another fishing boat in waters off its coast.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin said it is “not war, it’s a fight” amid a warning the country could ban allowing British fishing boats to disembark at French ports from next week if tensions are not resolved.

Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister, said on CNews TV: “So now, we need to speak the language of strength since that seems to be the only thing this British government understands.”

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French Minister on ‘fight’ with UK over fishing

Andrew Brown, director of Macduff Shellfish which owns the detained vessel, told Sky News the boat was being used as a “pawn in an ongoing dispute” between the two countries.

He said: “On 27 October, Macduff’s scallop vessel Cornelis was boarded by the French authorities and ordered into the French port of Le Harve while legally fishing for scallop in French waters.

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“Access to French waters for the UK scallop fleet is provided under Brexit Fisheries Agreement. Macduff’s fishing activity is entirely legal.

“It appears our vessel is another pawn in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France on the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement.

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“We are looking to the UK government to defend the rights of the UK fishing fleet and ensure that the fishing rights provided under the Brexit Fishing agreement are fully respected by the EU.

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French ‘threats’ will be met by response

“We will vigorously defend ourselves against any vexatious claims.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky: “It is disappointing and we as a country have fulfilled all of our obligations under the TCA. But at the same time, across government discussions will continue – both at commission level but also with counterparts within the French administration.”

Environment secretary George Eustice told the Commons on Thursday he had asked officials to “urgently investigate”.

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The route taken by the scallop trawler. Pic: MarineTraffic.com

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The British government said it has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels. Pic: Arjan Buurveld

He said: “They were on the list that was provided by the MMO to the European Union. The European Union, therefore, did grant a licence. We are seeing some reports that they were subsequently withdrawn from the list. It’s unclear why that might have been at the moment.”

He said he was waiting on “relevant data” from Marine Scotland.

The government has said since 31 December 1,673 EU vessels have been licensed for fishing – 98% of those who applied for access – of which 736 were French.

Questioning Mr Eustice over the incident, Labour MP Luke Pollard said: “There is a real need that everyone involved in this uses language to de-escalate the situation, to not risk the lives of any British or French fishers in any clashes at sea and to ensure there is uninterrupted trade between the United Kingdom and France.”

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Patel: Detention of UK trawler ‘disappointing’

He said the situation had arisen from the government “losing control” of negotiations.

When ask about the status of the crew, Mr Eustice responded: “We don’t think there are any issues with the crew.

“The vessel was asked to go into port in the usual way.”

Mr Eustice said he had spoken with Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Commission’s maritime affairs and fisheries commissioner.

He said: “The UK stands by its commitments in the trade and co-operation agreement.”

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The UK called the move ‘disappointing’. Pic: Arjan Buurveld

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The owner of the vessel (pictured here in 2012) said its activity was ‘entirely legal’. Pic: Eric Watt

“All of our decisions have been fully in line with this commitment,” he added.

A statement from Jersey’s Minister for Environment, Deputy John Young, and the Minister for External Relations, Senator Ian Gorst, said they were “extremely disappointed at the French government’s announcement”.

They continued: “Yesterday morning, Government of Jersey officers met officials from France, the UK and the European Commission, and made further progress on the outstanding applications from French vessels for licences to fish in Jersey’s territorial waters.

“The outcome of that meeting was that 162 French vessels will be licensed to fish in Jersey’s territorial waters from this Friday.”

Why is there a fishing row in the Channel between the UK and France?

They added: “We will continue to work closely with French authorities, the UK and the EU Commission – in accordance with the TCA – to ensure that vessels which are entitled to a permanent licence are able to receive one and can continue fishing in Jersey’s territorial waters in accordance with their historic track record.”

A European Commission spokesperson said they take note of the comments made by both countries.

They said: “Our Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK is clear: vessels who were fishing in these waters should be allowed to continue.

France has now released a list of sanctions that could apply from 2 November if the row is not resolved:

Banning British fishing vessels in some French ports
Reinforcement of customs and hygiene controls
Routine security checks on British vessels
Reinforcement of controls on lorries to and from the UK

“All French vessels entitled to a licence should receive one. Fishing licence applications are a top priority and we are working hard to support this process. We will continue discussions with the UK and France in the coming days to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

The UK government said the French response could breach international law, calling the threats “disappointing and disproportionate”.

In a tweet, the French Maritime Ministry said the ships were fined during “classic checks off Le Havre”.

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Macduff’s scallop vessel Cornelis was boarded by the French authorities. Pic: Sean Boyce

It added: “The first did not comply spontaneously: verbalization.

“The second did not have a licence to fish in our waters: diverted to the quay and handed over to the judicial authority.”

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British fishing vessel Cornelis in Le Havre

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

It is the latest twist in an increasingly bitter dispute between Britain and France over fishing rights.

France says its fishermen have not been issued with half the licences they are entitled to allowing them to fish in British waters under the terms of the Brexit agreement.

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May: Flares lit as fishing standoff continues

France protested against the decision last month by the UK and the Channel Island of Jersey to refuse dozens of French fishing boats licences to operate in their territorial waters.

Mr Beaune said the number of licences awarded was “not enough and not acceptable”.

The country considers these restrictions contrary to the post-Brexit agreement the UK signed when it left the EU.

Mr Girardin said it is “not serious” to suggest the country could switch off electricity to the UK after French spokesman Gabriel Attal suggested France’s supply of electricity to Britain could be subject to sanctions.

Analysis by Adam Parsons, Europe correspondent

France has stepped up its rhetoric, its threats and now its actions in this dispute. It is one thing to say you’re going to get tough; it’s quite another to force a British fishing boat into harbour.

The British government maintains it has issued licences to 98% of EU vessels who want to enter the nation’s coastal waters.

Ms Girardin says those figures are false and that it should be 90.3%, suggesting that the missing near-10% are French fishermen: “They have been waiting patiently for nine months and we have reached our limit.”

But this isn’t about all of British waters. It’s about a certain zone, between 6 and 12 miles from the coast, as well as the waters around Jersey.

So why do all this?

Firstly, Emmauel Macron is aware that, with a Presidential election on the horizon, he wants to shore up his support in northern France, where fishing is a potent topic.

He also thinks that picking a fight with Britain has political value. The AUKUS submarine deal infuriated Macron and, after years of Brexit wrangling, there is mistrust of Westminster politicians.

Macron is keen to portray himself as the de facto political leader of the EU and, right now, having a row with Boris Johnson won’t do him any harm. There is still a lot of resentment around Europe not just that the UK decided to leave the gang, but at the rancorous nature of the departure. Sympathy for Britain is in short supply.

France also feels emboldened to do this because it is supported by all the other coastal nations in the European Union. If British boats were banned from Boulogne, for instance, ports in Belgium or the Netherlands would be very unlikely to accept them either.

So will it come to that? France says it will introduce its measure on Tuesday, unless there has been significant progress. The UK says the threats are disproportionate and illegal. Neither side will want to back down. As ever, the combination of Brexit and fishing seems explosive.

Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the body representing fishermen in England, said descending into a “tit for tat” relationship between the nations was “unhelpful”.

He said: “(The amount of) UK vessels landing into French ports is not massive.

“It’s a bit strange because the French fleets fish much more in UK waters than we fish in their waters.

“Therefore if we descend into a tit for tat relationship, I think the French fleet are very much more exposed – I don’t think that’s a very helpful way to go.”

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May: Jersey blockaded in French fishing dispute

A UK government spokesperson said it would be relaying its concerns to the EU Commission and French government.

It said: “France’s threats are disappointing and disproportionate, and not what we would expect from a close ally and partner.

“The measures being threatened do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) and wider international law, and, if carried through, will be met with an appropriate and calibrated response.”

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Article: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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