14:08 GMT15 January 2021
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    On 24 December, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London and Brussels had completed "the biggest trade deal yet", following months of talks which were stalled over a spate of sensitive issues, including those related to fisheries.

    A flotilla of UK Royal Navy gunships has been deployed to the English Channel in an apparent show of force to protect the country's fishing area in the wake of the post-Brexit deal.

    The five offshore patrol vessels – HMS Mersey, Severn, Trent, Tamar, and Tyne – departed from Portsmouth a few hours before the deal came into force on New Year's Eve.

    The UK Defence Ministry said the convoy of warships had left Portsmouth "to carry out routine activity as part of pre-planned deployments".

    Admiral Lord Alan West, the former head of the Royal Navy, for his part called the flotilla's deployment "an act of deterrence".

    "We are not trying to have a punch-up with foreign vessels. We are signalling that these are our waters and we are responsible for looking after them", he pointed out.

    In mid-December, French fishermen, who regularly fish in the English Channel, warned they would set up blockades to stop British vessels from "supplying the French market" in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This was preceded by media reports that the UK would deploy naval vessels to its fishing waters in the Channel as London and Brussels were still negotiating the terms of a trade deal.

    Admiral West's remarks come after the Brexit transition period between the UK and the EU ended on 31 December, with a trade agreement on a new post-Brexit relationship between London and the bloc entering into force.

    The sides managed to reach a deal on 24 December, after months of tough negotiations that were stalled due to differences over access to fisheries and a level playing field for social, labour, and environmental issues.

    As far as fisheries are concerned, the post-Brexit trade deal stipulates that French and other EU boats may continue fishing in British waters, but that about a quarter of the EU's catch, approximately €162.5 million ($197.1 million) a year, will be "repatriated" to UK vessels over the next five and a half years.


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    trade deal, EU, Brexit, deployment, warships, English Channel, British Royal Navy, Britain
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