August 20, 2001
If the British government were serious about defence,
they would do something about coastal defence.
British government seems to be expert at spending plenty of money
abroad while stinting on spending money at home. The navy epitomises
this. The present fixation with building two new super class battleships
seems to be at the expense of less glamorous diesel submarines.
The fact that these submarines are effectively silent in shallow
waters something that nuclear submarines can never be
is utterly ignored by our ruling elite. This is baffling for an
island with a long shoreline and close neighbours. I also fail to
see what use an aircraft carrier is in defending a large island
with plenty of room for, well, airfields.
do not wish to discuss defence procurement, but an equally baffling
decision of the governments, the surrender of British fishing rights.
This may puzzle some readers, so first let me explain the significance
of a fishing fleet. Britain is an island nation. Therefore, the
defence of the coast is vitally important. Coasts, being craggy
and generally not being well endowed with straight lines, cannot
be adequately defended by large battleships. Various defensive jobs,
such as looking for suspicious activity, clearing mines and navigating
narrow channels, suit small craft and sailors who know their local
area intimately. Quite like fishing vessels, really.
happens to the fishing fleet matters to Britain's coastal defence,
and coastal defence is a vital piece in Britain's defence jigsaw.
So it will come as no surprise that Britain's coastal fleet has
been decimated. When Britain was utterly desperate to join the (then)
European Economic Community in 1972, it allowed the fishing waters
to be treated as a "Common Resource". This, in effect, meant that
after some years, other community states would be allowed to fish
in British waters. This may seem equitable, until it is remembered
that maritime law had been taking precisely the opposite direction
in those years. Countries were actually increasing their exclusion
zones for as far as 200 miles. Indeed, Britain learned this in the
when Iceland extended its exclusive fishing limits, excluding British
fishing vessels and humiliating the Royal Navy. It was also a one-sided
bargain, as Britain had 80% of the European Community's fishing
LOSS OF THE FLEET
effect was predictable. The fishing fleet has plummeted as boats
and crews from other countries have taken over British waters. No
matter what Britain tries to do to slow down the destruction of
the fishing fleet (for example stopping British quotas being bought
up by foreign buyers) it is told to rethink by its European masters.
The most famous case was known as Factortame,
where the European Court of Justice ruled that a member state could
not make a law that is contrary to that made by the European institutions.
The European Commission also tells the British Government how many
vessels that they are allowed to have, and Britain rarely comes
out well. So fishing dies on its feet.