With fishing access after the end of the year a key sticking point, no-deal Brexit preparations include Royal Navy vessels being deployed to “threats of illegal fishing” in UK waters, the UK Government today confirmed. However, Daniel Kawczynski, while welcoming the news, stressed his belief that the UK needed to send a signal straight from the off to deter incursions.
He told Express.co.uk: “We are ever so very pleased with this announcement by the MOD.
“However in the coming days it will be vital that questions are asked in the Commons about how these waters will be protected.”
Failure to do so would be a demonstration that the UK was not capable of policing its own waters, Mr Kawczynski said.
He added: “That would drive a coach and horses through our claims to be a sovereign nation.
“No British Government could tolerate French vessels entering our territory like that – that would be a violation of international law.”
Referring to the so-called Cod Wars with Iceland in the 1970s, he said: “It was British naval power which dealt with that situation and this is analogous.
However, he also stressed the onus was on the French as well.
He said: “French relations are going to be priority going forward – we need to have best possible relations with our immediate neighbour.
“Therefore it would be highly irresponsible of the French government if they allowed this to happen – they need to collaborate with us.”
Admiral Lord West, a former chief of naval staff, agreed that the Royal Navy should protect UK waters from foreign fishing vessels if asked to do so in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is absolutely appropriate that the Royal Navy should protect our waters if the position is that we are a sovereign state and our Government has said we don’t want other nations there.”
Others are much less happy about the plan, however.
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, called the threat “irresponsible”.
Also talking to Today, Mr Ellwood said of the reports: “I think these headlines are absolutely irresponsible.
“We need to be focusing on what is already in the bag – 98 percent of the deal is there, there are three or four outstanding issues.
“Important though they are, let’s park those for the future. Let’s get this deal because economically, but most importantly, international reputationally this would be so damaging to Britain – it would be a retrograde step, a failure of statecraft.”
Former European commissioner Lord Patten said: “While I hope for the best, I do fear for the worst because it is very, very difficult to see what the plan is, how we’re going to do so brilliantly when we’re out of this ‘cage’ of Europe – which we of course helped to build because the main constructor of the single market was Margaret Thatcher.”