In case of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will have four Royal Navy boats on standby in a bid to prevent European fishing vessels from operating in its waters, according to The Guardian. Britain is set to leave the EU single market at the end of the year with or without a trade agreement. Failure to reach a free trade deal with the EU means bilateral trade will depend on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in 2021. Now, as the transition period ends in the coming weeks, there are serious concerns that the two sides will not have a new agreement ready by then.
According to reports, the 800-metre-long ships would patrol Britain’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which covers an area up to 200 miles from the coast, from January 1. The vessels, which are armed with machine guns, would be able to stop, search and impound trawlers fishing without permission in the EEZ. The navy officials reportedly said that the firearms would only be used if life was at risk. They assured that nobody is going to be firing warning shots against French fishermen. “Firearms are only used where there is a danger to life,” they said.
The confirmations of the navy boats on standby comes as no-deal Brexit looks increasingly likely after negotiations this week were unable to bridge disagreements between the UK and the EU. Reiterating the European Union’s stance on fishing, Ursula Van der Leyen on Friday had said that fishing rights remain a stumbling block to a potential free trade agreement. She added that the EU understands that the UK aspires to control its waters. “The UK, on the other hand, must understand the legitimate expectations of EU fishing fleets built on decades and sometimes centuries of access,” she said.
As “large gaps” still persist between the two sides, Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen previously said that a Brexit deal must be sealed by Sunday or there will be no deal. Now, the UK and EU leaders have agreed that by December 13 a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks. Earlier, before his trip to Brussels, UK PM Boris Johnson had also said that EU’s terms of a post-Brexit trade deal were intended to “punish” Britain. In an address to the parliament, the British PM said that the EU had to dismiss the terms that are clearly "unacceptable" to the UK as an independent nation if there has to be a Brexit trade deal.
The UK is yet to reach an agreement for post-Brexit trade with respect to fisheries activities, freedom of competition, handling of future relations, and police and judicial cooperation on criminal matters. Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told RTE news that the talks for an agreement had hit a downbeat, both EU and UK had ramped up efforts to make progress in the negotiations as time is running out. Extensive negotiations are needed in the field of governance and fisheries and the outcome is still uncertain.