BREXIT fishing tensions exploded today after the Defence Secretary vowed to use the full might of the Navy to protect British boats “going about their lawful business”.
Ben Wallace warned Britain was ready for “whatever is the challenge on 1 January” after French fishermen vowed to blockade the Channel if there is No Deal.
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And they said Britain’s threat to send gunboats in to repel foreign vessels “would mean that we are negotiating things that relate to war”.
He hit out: “When it comes to a Brexit deal whatever that is, it is no secret that we would use our military to help support in logistics or anything else as required by other departments – we only do things at the request of civilians. If they ask for help we will give it.”
Speaking on a visit to Estonia, Mr Wallace added that the government is “incredibly prepared” for a no deal and “because resilience is our second nature” he had ordered his department to prepare for worst case scenarios – including tension in the channel.
His comments came after furious French trawlermen said they will respond to being shut out of UK waters if talks collapse by stopping ferries carrying vital goods from entering ports.
And they raged at an “unimaginable” talk of Navy gunboats being deployed to repel foreign vessels as “meaning we’re negotiating things that relate to war”.
Normandy fisheries committee boss Dimitri Rogoff said: “If we are deprived of our fishing grounds, we will not watch the British supply the French market.
“There will therefore be blockages to ferries, since this mainly happens by ferries. And on that, we are quite clear and determined.”
But Mr Wallace hit back: “Whatever happens in the negotiations people should respect each other’s sovereign waters and follow the rule of law and behave peacefully and in line with it.”
And he insisted he was not making a threat but just protecting UK shores “like any other European seaborne nation”.
“We will be there to make sure we protect our fisherman because they have the right to be protected as they go about their lawful business,” he added.
The spat came as Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors No 10 has doubled down on fishing and is “backtracking” on possible compromises.
But he said if the two sides can overcome their differences on the issue a pact can be struck in the next few days.
Germany and France were also at loggerheads once more over how long negotiations should continue.
Berlin said they should go on for “as long as an agreement is possible” but Paris insisted it will be “very difficult to go beyond the end of the week”.
Mr Wallace was speaking in Tallinn, Estonia on a visit to the 900 British troops stationed in the tiny Baltic state.
His Estonian counterpart said he was “optimistic” about a trade deal, but Brexit would do nothing to weaken his country’s strong anti-Russian defence alliance with the UK.
Defence Minister Jüri Luik added: “while the UK is leaving the EU you are most certainly not leaving Europe.
“And the presence of the British troops here is perhaps the best testament of that – something that is very clear and unambiguous and very correct.”
On a deal he added: I certainly hope there will be a good solution – so I am optimistic… I have high hopes.”
Source: The Sun