UK ‘may not be able to police its own fishing waters after Brexit’

Britain ‘may not be able to police its own fishing waters after Brexit because it only has 12 boats to cover an area three items the size of the UK’, leaked government email reveals

  • A memo accidentally sent to the BBC revealed doubts over Britain’s resources
  • Officials said there was ‘a lot of uncertainty’ over the UK’s ability to police waters
  • Britain will leave the Common Fisheries Policy in the event of a no-deal Brexit 

The UK may struggle to patrol its own fishing waters after a no-deal Brexit, a government email gaffe has revealed. 

A memo written by Defra officials, which was accidentally sent to the BBC, said there was ‘a lot of uncertainty’ over whether Britain has the resources to police its seas. 

The document raises concerns that only 12 vessels will be available ‘to monitor a space three times the size of the surface area of the UK’.

Britain will leave the Common Fisheries Policy – which allows EU fishermen access to British waters – and become an independent coastal state if it crashes out of the bloc without a deal on October 31.

The UK may struggle to patrol its own fishing waters after a no-deal Brexit, a government email gaffe has revealed (fishing boats are seen in Devon in a file photo)

Under the terms of Theresa May’s failed withdrawal agreement, the UK would have continued to allow EU boats access during a 21-month transition period.

However, the deal was voted down three times in Parliament, prompting Mrs May’s resignation. 

Her successor Boris Johnson has insisted he is willing to leave with no deal if necessary to get Brexit over the line by October 31.   

The lobby group Fishing for Leave dismissed the government warning as ‘defeatist’ in a statement today. 

‘Defra’s strange document that has been accidentally sent to the press can only be met with incredulous dismay,’ they said. 

‘If this is looked at objectively it’s difficult to see how Britain couldn’t make a semi-decent fist of protecting our waters.

Officials fear that only 12 vessels will be available ‘to monitor a space three times the size of the surface area of the UK (a fishing crew member is seen in the North Sea)

‘It’s high risk for EU vessels to fish far into UK waters where they’d really have their trousers round their ankles.

‘Does Defra not rate our proud Royal Navy or is Defra/Whitehall looking for excuses to be soft to not upset the EU – on past form one wouldn’t be surprised.’  

The warning comes as French fishermen, who rely heavily on British waters for their catch, have threatened to disrupt UK exports via the Channel if they are denied access after Brexit. 

When Mr Johnson took office he was immediately warned by France’s agriculture minister not to prevent French fishermen from working in British waters. 

‘There is no circumstance in which one could prevent, in which Boris Johnson could prevent, French fishermen from fishing in British waters,’ the minister said.   

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