UK threatens EU with gunboat diplomacy ahead of the breakdown of trade talks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In a reprise of 19th century gunboat diplomacy the Royal Navy will be aggressively confronting EU fishing boats from the beginning of the new year

With a no-deal Brexit all but assured the UK is taking extraordinary steps to assert a degree of dominance over the European Union (EU) ahead of the formal end of the transition period on December 31.

The most dramatic development centers on aggressive posturing and hardline rhetoric by the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD).

In a statement the MoD claimed it has conducted “extensive planning and preparation” to ensure readiness for a “range of scenarios” at the end of the transition period (December 31), including the deployment of 14,000 personnel to support the government in the immediate post-Brexit period.

The MoD says four offshore patrol boats will be available to monitor British waters with the vessels having “robust enforcement measures in place to protect the UK’s rights as an independent coastal state”.

Old school Tories in uproar 

The statement by the MoD – which appears to have the full support of British leaders – has drawn sharp criticism from across the political spectrum, including influential voices in the ruling Tory party.

Senior Tory MP, Tobias Ellwood, who is a former minister at the MoD, decried the posturing as “absolutely irresponsible”.

Ellwood, who chairs the House of Commons Defense Committee, told BBC radio 4’s Today program that the threat to deploy the Royal Navy was a distraction from “ongoing talks” between the UK and the EU.

"This isn't Elizabethan times anymore, this is global Britain - we need to be raising the bar much higher than this", Ellwood complained.

Meanwhile, the former Tory party chairman and the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, accused Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, of being on a "runaway train of English exceptionalism".

The government’s increasingly hostile attitude to the EU has also elicited a sharp response in Scotland.

The view from Scotland 

The Scottish Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, told the BBC: “This UK government gunboat diplomacy is not welcome in Scottish waters”.

"We will protect our fisheries where necessary. Police Scotland and Marine Scotland have primacy to do that. But we won't do that by threatening our allies, our Nato allies in fact, by threatening to sink their vessels", Yousaf added.

Both Johnson and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, have set a deadline of Sunday (December 13) for the end of negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Amid profound differences between the two sides on a range of issues, it is widely expected that a breakthrough will not be made by tomorrow (December 13).





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