By Oliver James Pike
Outrage merchants have been in a frenzied spin over the last couple of days after it was announced that British Naval Vessels (which tend to be armed- being the navy and all) would be patrolling British waters to protect the UK's EEZ from illegal fishing activity in the case of a no-deal Brexit. There are several glaring problems with all this outrage and what is a sensible precaution has been transformed into militaristic aggression or even gunboat diplomacy by some including SNP justice minister Humza Yusuf. Humza even stated that Scottish Waters (a legally dubious term as Scotland remains part of the UK) would not see naval vessels deployed.
The situation is not one of sabre-rattling brinksmanship but instead a courageous defence of the UK's territory and laws. The navy will not be torpedoing Spanish fishing boats out of the water. Instead, it will board and detain those looking to illegally enter British waters to plunder our fishing stocks. If people have a problem with this, are they in favour of illegal fishing? If so, why?
Furthermore, the same people gripped by rage over the potential use of the British navy for lawful protection of the nation's EEZ post-Brexit were happy with the French deploying its navy to transport migrants across the channel. When asked to stop the French demanded tens of millions. The French not the British have been the aggressors during this process and those protesting the use of our navy ought to ask themselves why Macron gets to indulge his personal psychodrama and pay Napoleon 2.0 while Boris is expected to roll over and allow the borders and resources of the nation to be infringed and plundered.
This is also in no way "gunboat diplomacy". Fishing is a red line for the UK and illegal activity must be stopped. Protecting your own recourses and waters from bad-faith actors from foreign nations should not be considered illegitimate and the promise to do so should not be misconstrued as some form of Palmerstonian threat. The background diplomacy is irrelevant but even if this had the side effect of ensuring a good deal by displaying the confidence of the UK in its position, why is that in any way negative?
The EU has viewed the UK as a vassal state renegotiating an arrangement with its superior while the UK has seen itself as an independent, free nation looking to trade with the EU in the same way any other country would. The red lines of the UK have never truly been respected and to pull punches at this late stage would be foolish. This clear and bold declaration of intention to protect the UK's interests post no deal will likely send shivers down the spines of EU leaders. In their eyes either Boris is a madman driving the UK off a cliff edge or someone who has outplayed them. Either way, the loss of UK money, the imposition of tariffs and loss of fishing access will be a hit the EU will have to painfully absorb.
Whatever way you look at the situation the UK is within its rights to deploy whatever tactics it deems necessary to prevent illegal activity in its waters regardless of the opinions of foreign leaders, unelected bureaucrats and Fishermen who use too many vowels.