Government email reveals no-deal Brexit fears of illegal fishing in UK waters

Posted On: 
10th August 2019

EU fishermen may be able to enter UK waters illegally if a no-deal Brexit means there are not enough vessels to police the seas, a leaked government email has revealed.

The leaked Defra email said there was "a lot of uncertainty" about whether the UK will be able to police its waters.
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The fears were exposed in an email prepared by officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The email, seen by Sky News, says there is "a lot of uncertainty" about whether the country will be able to police the seas because Britain only has "12 vessels that need to monitor a space three times the size of the surface area of the UK”.

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It adds: "While our public position on this wider issue is already clear and widely communicated, in that post-Brexit we will be an independent coastal state with control of our waters, both Policy [officials] and MOD [officials] have indicated we are not on an overly strong footing to get ahead of the potential claims that could arise from this story."

The revelation could prompt questions about how prepared the UK is to leave the EU without a deal after Boris Johnson wrote to all civil servants calling on them to making planning for such an eventuality "a top priority".

A former navy chief meanwhile warned that a lack of resources meant the UK could face an increased risk of seaborne terrorism, people smuggling, illegal immigration and conflict.

Former First Sea Admiral Lord West told Sky News: "We do not have enough ships to a protect our fishing zones should we suddenly have a disagreement with the EU about who is fishing where [after we leave] - we just don't have enough ships.

"When you include the job of stopping illegal immigrants, where the navy needs to help because there aren't enough cutters, and smuggling, terrorists and so on, we have not got enough vessels in all the agencies to ensure the safety and security of our territorial seas and the protection of our fishing zones."