London is bracing for a possible conflict over fishing waters with its EU neighbours after it exits from the economic union, The Sunday Times reported, citing British ministers. According to the newspaper, the UK is planning to employ over 40 ships, at least eight of which would be armed vessels of the Royal Navy, as well as two surveillance aircraft to control the waters and fend-off European vessels fishing there illegally.
British Fisheries Minister George Eustice stated that drones might join surveillance aircraft in their task. He said that London will be applying a list of requirements for those who want to fish in British waters, adding that it's a temporary measure.
"Post-Brexit fishing agreements are going to take some time, but what we can do immediately is enforce the requirements for an economic link so that EU vessels will need to land about half their fish in the UK, have 50% of their crew from the UK and do half their boat maintenance here", he clarified.
Part of the UK "fleet" enforcing the new measures and protecting the country's sea resources will reportedly be made up of ships belonging to the British inshore fishery conservation authorities. The officers of the latter, operating on vessels ranging from “rigid inflatables” to ocean-worthy ships, have reportedly been given extra-legal powers to board European fishing boats and even confiscate them.
The report by The Sunday Times comes on the heels of statements by the French fishing minister, Didier Guillaume, who said that the UK won't be able to stop the country's fishing boats from operating in its waters.
"There is no scenario in which French fishermen should be prevented, could be prevented, would be prevented by Boris Johnson from fishing in UK waters. There is no reason for it. And on that point I really want to fight", Guillaume said.
The UK, in turn, has long complained that it ceded large fishing quotas in order to enter the EU's Common Market, but received too little in return, pushing for a change in these quotas. Head of the UK's National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Barrie Deas said that the EU catches six times more fish in British waters than the UK's vessels do in the EU's.