HMS Tyne at North Shields

Britain Unable To Protect Waters Post-Brexit, Former Head Of Royal Navy Warns

A former head of the Royal Navy has said the UK has "insufficient ships" to patrol its waters after clashes between British and French...

HMS Tyne at North Shields

A former head of the Royal Navy has said the UK has "insufficient ships" to patrol its waters after clashes between British and French fishermen over scallops.

Ex-First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead, says co-ordination of the "few" ships which Britain has is "fragmented" - and that the lack of vessels will have "disastrous" consequences post-Brexit.

The long-running dispute in the English Channel is focused on a scallop-rich part of the area French fishermen are prevented from harvesting due to domestic environmental laws.

Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles are reported to have been hurled at English and Scottish vessels during the confrontation in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord West said: "It is clear that we have insufficient ships to patrol the United Kingdom's territorial seas and our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

"Co-ordination of the few ships we do have is fragmented.

"In theory, co-ordination is exercised by the co-located Joint Maritime Operations Command Centre.

"But this command centre lacks a single commander with authority to order government departments to take action, and therefore is unable to exercise proper command.

"After Brexit, this will be disastrous."

When Britain leaves the bloc, it will be responsible for patrolling its EEZ.

The scallop-rich waters of the Baie de Seine are a source of tension due to different restrictions on what British and French fishermen can do there.

French authorities try to preserve scallop stocks by banning their ships from fishing in the region over the summer, a measure that ends on October 1.

This law does not apply to the British, however - who anger the French mariners by harvesting scallops during this window.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy allows any member state with a registered fleet - including Britain - "equal access" to EU waters more than 12 nautical miles off the shore of other countries.

The Baie de Seine stretches from the coast of Normandy to considerably beyond the 12 nautical miles, meaning British fishermen can access it.