THE BRITISH government’s proposed plan to place Royal Navy patrol boats on standby in case they are required to protect UK waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit has drawn criticism from an Irish MEP.
According to the British Ministry of Defence, four vessels are on standby to provide “robust enforcement” of the rules around fishing in British waters should no agreement be reached before December 31, when the transitional arrangements in place end.
It’s an approach that has been condemned by Irish MEP Barry Andrews who IS a member of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade AND described the approach as “19th century gun boat diplomacy”.
He told RTE: “I think it is irresponsible. It’s completely inappropriate.”
Andrews noted the announcement came just a day after the European Commission published a regulation that would have paved the way the UK and EU to enjoy access to each other’s fishing waters.
“We have an approach to a modern free trade deal and a responsible attitude in the event of no-deal and the UK decides to deploy naval vessels,” the Fianna Fáil MEP said.
“It is very disappointing to see this and it doesn’t bode well for an accord being reached in the next 48 hours.”
Fishing rights remain one of the major sticking points of the ongoing Brexit negotiations with France said to be displeased with UK proposals calling for a reduction in the quotas provided to EU skippers and a shortening of the implementation period.
The UK fishing industry has long argued that the current terms leave them disadvantaged compared with their European neighbours.
Plans for the deployment of four Navy boats has drawn criticism from some corners of the Conservative Party with the Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood describing it as “irresponsible” while former European commissioner Chris Patten lambasted Boris Johnson for behaving like an “English nationalist”.
While Johnson has already met with government officials to “take stock” of plans for a no-deal exit, there is still hope that an agreement can be reached before the deadline with both sides eager to “go the extra mile” to reach an agreement.
The UK Prime Minister would likely to be forced into concessions, after his pleas to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron fell on deaf ears with both leaders rebuffing Johnson’s requests to speak directly to them this week about the trade discussions.