“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives” – Ronald Reagan
It is plainly obvious that this, and other governments are doing far too much of the latter nowadays, but are they even doing the former – and most important? Protecting the people has to include protecting their interests and assets. As discussed yesterday, the UK’s fishing waters are a national asset, but where is the protection?
As recently as 2015, EU vessels caught 683,000 tonnes (£484 million revenue) in UK waters and, in return, UK vessels managed to catch 111,000 tonnes (£114 million revenue) in EU States’ waters – foreign ownership of UK operated boats reduces the UK quota still further. Those revenue figures are likely far higher in reality, with an estimated 19% of fishing done illegally. The fishing industry supports 24,000 people in the UK.
Coastal communities have been devastated by this imbalance and it is no surprise that they produced some of the highest turnout percentages for the Leave vote in the referendum. So, in the same way that householders must have the right to defend their property, our national assets should be protected also.
There are just four “River” Class patrol vessels performing fisheries security and border patrol tasks in UK waters. It can be guaranteed that they are not all at sea simultaneously, and that’s putting it mildly. For years now, 80,000 square miles of sea and ocean have been almost completely open to illegal fishing.
What have the government done about it? They built two huge aircraft carriers. Without going into the availability of planes for these floating missile targets, their whole function is one of offence, not defence. Then there’s the issue of having enough supporting ships to adequately protect them.
The critical shortage in patrol vessels means we cannot stop illegal migrants crossing the channel in dinghies, let alone piratical French fishermen attacking English and Scots trawlers. It is appalling negligence. Our armed forces should not be committed around the world playing policemen at Uncle Sam’s beck and call, but nearer home protecting our country and it’s national interests. The Libertarian Party manifesto calls for a 400% increase in patrol boats. River Class vessels are versatile and can also be used in maritime counter-terrorism.
The Ministry of Defence needs to remember it is not the Ministry of War any longer. It should be there to protect our people and their interests. Vanity projects like the two carriers will not do that.
Martin Day – Party Secretary
Photo: LA(Phot) Caroline Davies/MOD