Four Navy ships to help protect fishing waters in case of no-deal Brexit
Four Royal Navy patrol ships will be ready from 1 January to help the UK protect its fishing waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in a deployment evoking memories of the ‘cod wars’ in the 1970s, reports The Guardian.
The 80m armed vessels would have the power to halt, inspect and impound all EU fishing boats operating within the UK’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which can extend 200 miles from shore.
Naval sources said the deployment had been long planned, but it comes after Conservative ministers quietly doubled the total fleet of patrol ships from four to eight, partly in case of a crisis caused by a no-deal Brexit.
The ships would aim to run alongside a vessel believed to be breaking the rules, boarding it for inspection if deemed necessary. In extreme cases, an EU boat could be impounded and taken to the nearest UK port.
It is unclear how effectively the Navy can patrol the EEZ in practice – it may use satellite surveillance to help locate EU fishing boats – and how aggressively the UK government will want to act against French and other EU member states’ vessels when relations with the EU are so delicate.
Fishery patrol vessels have long operated in UK waters, but a no-deal Brexit would have a significant impact on the tasks their crews would be expected to undertake.
Chris Parry, a former rear admiral and ex-chair of the Marine Management Organisation, told The Guardian ministers should act assertively. “I would seek to make an example and take a [EU fishing] boat or two into Harwich or Hastings. Once you had impounded them, the others would not be so keen to transgress without insurance.”