‘Britain will be unable to protect waters after Brexit’
A FORMER chief of the naval staff has said the UK has “insufficient ships” to patrol its waters, after a week in which there were clashes between British and French fishermen over scallops.
Ex-First Sea Lord, Labour’s Lord West of Spithead, says co-ordination of the “few” ships which Britain has is “fragmented” – and that the lack of boats will have “disastrous” consequences post-Brexit.
The long-running dispute in the English Channel is over a scallop-rich area.
Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles are reported to have been hurled at English and Scottish vessels during the confrontation in the early hours of Tuesday.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord West said: “It is clear that we have insufficient ships to patrol the United Kingdom’s territorial seas and our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“Co-ordination of the few ships we do have is fragmented.
“In theory, co-ordination is exercised by the co-located Joint Maritime Operations Command Centre.
“But this command centre lacks a single commander with authority to order government departments to take action, and therefore is unable to exercise proper command. “After Brexit, this will be disastrous.” When Britain leaves the bloc, it will be responsible for patrolling its EEZ.
The scallop-rich waters of the Baie de Seine are a source of tension due to differing restrictions on British and French fishermen.
French authorities try to preserve scallop stocks by banning their ships from fishing in the region over the summer, a measure that ends on October 1.
This law does not apply to the British, however – who anger the French mariners by harvesting scallops during this window.
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy allows any member state with a registered fleet – including Britain – “equal access” to EU waters more than 12 nautical miles off the shore of other countries.
The Baie de Seine stretches from the coast of Normandy to considerably beyond the 12 nautical miles, meaning British boats can access it.