Navy to protect UK waters from European fishing vessels after Brexit

The government is set to send in the Navy to protect UK waters from European fishing vessels after Brexit .

Fishing minster George Eustice said the Royal Navy boasts three extra vessels, the Home Office will provide a further four and the government can call in help from the private sector.

He insisted the UK has taken “sufficient” steps to protect its waters telling a Lords committee that 50 extra fishery protection officers have been recruited and there will be “aerial surveillance”.

Asked about enforcement of the fisheries policy, he explained: “We have significantly increased our enforcement capability."

Ministers have been warned of a scenario where French fishermen blockade ports and paralyse cross-Channel trade at the end of the year.

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"The Royal Navy introduced three new offshore vessels but a decision was taken not to decommission the old ones so that there was additional capacity there.

"We've also taken on some extra capacity from the private sector to give us extra vessels, we've launched a new joint maritime control centre together with both Border Force and Coastguard so that we can make better coordinated use of the various assets that we have.

He explained: "The Home Office have four cutter vessels that are suitable for some fisheries patrol work and we have trained some of their staff to become warranted fisheries officers and taken out an aerial surveillance contract as well.

"We have trained a significant number – 50 new fisheries protection officers – to support us in this work and we've also taken out an aerial surveillance contract as well so we have increased it substantially.

He added: “We think that is sufficient.”

Access for EU boats in British waters is a key area of conflict in the post-Brexit trade talks with Brussels demanding an agreement by the end of June.

Eustice said on Wednesday he was optimistic an agreement could be reached with the European Union over future fishing rights by July.

He said the UK's demand for annual negotiations on fishing quotas, was "not asking for something extraordinary" as Norway already has a similar agreement with the EU.

He also said that even if a broader multi-year agreement was reached, annual negotiations on total catch were "inevitable" because of the science of fish movements. There will be some reduction in access for EU fisherman to UK waters, he added.

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