‘Bri­tain will be un­able to pro­tect wa­ters af­ter Brexit’

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

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.

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