Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

What’s happening? “Britain will do a Brexit Deal on Europe’s Terms” V Boris Johnson’s gunboats will put Johnny Foreigner in his place

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Britain will do a Brexit deal on Europe’s terms, Gideon Rachman, Financial Times, December 15 2020

A correspondent, Gregor Benton, asks : “War at sea? Johnson should think twice about what he pretends to wish for”.

Johnny Foreigner is not frightened.

Mr Johnson insists that the UK and the EU are “sovereign equals” but, as long as the EU maintains its unity, they are not equals in terms of power. And that is what has mattered in these negotiations. It is why Britain has made a series of painful concessions over the past four years – most notably by agreeing a separate status for Northern Ireland, which will see customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, effectively dividing the United Kingdom

Gideon Rachman, Financial Times (See Above)

A few questions : If the British Navy attacks French Fishery Vessels 🚢 in the seas of Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 what will Admiral Macron do? Turn the other cheek? Grin and Bear It? Impose punitive tariffs on Scottish Fish 🐠 intended for tummies in France 🇫🇷? 80 per cent of fish 🎣 caught in seas “owned” by the British State currently are exported to the European Union, I am informed. The fish companies will quickly have warehouses full of unprofitable food. The Brexiteer capitalists could, we guess, dump the fish after a few months into the gullets of starving Brits for free. Is this the “Oven-Ready Brexit” promised by Chef Boris?

Boris Johnson’s Brexiteers are like cornered rats – so far they are throwing shapes at the EU crafty cats, Ursula of Germany and Michel of France. If Boris is only a play-acting jingo admiral, more passengers on board the doomed tory Titanic will jump ship. Warning signs are already flashing – Brexit is rejected by large majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But what if desperate gambler Boris goes for broke, and attempts a repeat of something like his hero Margaret Thatcher’s Falkland Islands adventure? That’s unlikely, but good strategists plan for possible futures, including the improbable ones.

What should the left in Ireland and Britain say and do? It is a no-brainer :

“”I can’t imagine any Brexit deal emerging that will protect the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents, that will protect our rights and the environment. I believe Labour should have nothing to do with this Tory deal and vote against it”. British Labour MP John McDonnell.

Unfortunately John McDonnell seems to be a lonely isolated voice in the British left. As the crisis heats up, right-wing British Labour leader Keir Starmer is purging the left (including former leader Jeremy Corbyn) and is forelock-tugging to Johnson’s Brexiteering tories. Effective resistance is more likely to emerge from anti-UK nationalists in Wales and Scotland. Credible and clear-headed political analysis is here :

Bernard Moffitt of the Celtic League elaborates :


The UK right wing press are revelling following the news that PM Boris Johnson is sabre rattling over a possible no deal Brexit by threatening to deploy greater numbers of naval warships to protest UK fishing grounds.

Currently two River Class OPVs are deployed in the new scenario two more will be on standby. The UK has also indicated it may increase the number although how at a time RN resources are stretched is another matter.

Behind the headlines on this recent ‘storm at sea’ which has blown up the facts are more nuanced. For a start although the UK has a large territorial sea area fishery protection is a devolved issue. Would the Scottish government seek additional support for its area of responsibility. Marine Scotland already has three vessels and two aircraft and arguably its enforcement of fishery rules is more robust already. Similarly Wales has a number of small fishery protection vessels – the Isle of Man has a small single vessel.

Fisheries as an area of tension post Brexit were highlighted years ago and as recently as October the Irish Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister said that the Irish Naval Service should be ready to cope with ‘tensions at sea’.

The UK press has highlighted the fact that the RN fishery protection vessels will have the power to board and arrest vessels creating the impression that this is some new escalation. However these powers already exist and fishery officers from both the UK and EU already routinely board MFVs and Super Trawlers to check quota and catch.

Additionally incidents at sea can get out of hand as happened with the events a few months ago off North Donegal.

There will be flash points particularly in the Channel where waters around the Channel Islands are already disputed with France. However elsewhere there are areas of tension such as the delineation between the UK and the Faeroes (whose waters are policed by Denmark). Even inshore there are problems as in a still divided Ireland – Lough Foyle and Carlingford are disputed areas. I cannot see Boris sailing a River Class warship (or any other) into these areas.

Further complicating things is that many countries’ fishing fleet have historical rights built up over centuries to fishing grounds. What is sometimes not realised is that this involved protracted negotiation at the time of the UK accession to the UK so do we really think this will be solved overnight post Brexit (see attachment 1999 UK/Faroes/Denmark). Certainly one area of historic (or grandfather rights) is the access of UK vessels to Manx waters so what’s the Manx plan? Minister Geoff Boot recently said we haven’t got one!

It’s a complex area and ‘sending a gunboat’ will not resolve it political negotiations will. Mind you ‘Vlad Putin’ will be loving the sight of NATO allies squaring up to each other to sea just as the Navy of the Russian Federation starts to deploy more of its surface and undersea units into European and North Atlantic waters.


Brexit: ‘Irresponsible’ threat to deploy Navy gunboats as PM branded ‘English nationalist’

Click to access Denmark.1.2013.FaroeDelimit.pdf

UPDATE: The Scottish government has ruled out any participation in UK ‘sabre rattling’ over fisheries. See related post:

Image: Limits map – Insets (top to bottom) SPV Hirta, LE George Bernard Shaw, MPV Barrule, WPV Rhodri Morgan, RN Tyne Class vessel.

See also :

The old order is wobbling – including the partition of Ireland. John Meehan December 15 2020

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