Gavin Williamson unveils new gunboats to protect UK fisheries after Brexit
Gavin Williamson has announced that a fleet of state-of-the-art gunships will be tasked with protecting the UK’s fisheries after Britain leaves the EU.
The Royal Navy has taken delivery of HMS Forth, the first of five £116m ships which will be the UK’s “eyes and ears” as they join the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squad, the Defence Secretary said.
Two further vessels, HMS Trent and Medway, are set to be handed over later this year.
Mr Williamson said: “The Royal Navy has a proud tradition of protecting the UK’s coastline and keeping a close eye on our fishing waters.
“With these state-of-the-art, vastly capable ships we stand ready to protect our fisheries once Britain leaves the EU.”
As well as protecting fisheries, the patrol vessels will be tasked with counter-terrorism, border patrol, anti-smuggling and maritime defence duties.
The new gunships, which have a sea-faring range of 5,500 nautical miles, are armed with a 30mm automatic cannon, two miniguns, four machine guns and are equipped with two Pacific 24 sea boats.
Each vessel also has the capacity to land Merlin helicopters on its decks, and accommodation space for 50 Royal Marines.
The Treasury announced last week that Mr Williamson’s department was set to receive a chunk of a £12.7m fund from the Government’s Brexit preparation allocation to support work with Defra in protecting and maintaining the UK’s fisheries.
Mr Williamson’s announcement comes in the wake of a furious row over fisheries, after the Government announced that British fisherman would be bound by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy during the Brexit transition period.