Military vessels patrolling UK waters after Brexit may have to rely on data from a French firm that was handed the license to monitor them back in October last year.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) yesterday confirmed that four 80-metre armed vessels had been placed on standby to guard British waters from EU trawlers in the event that there is no new agreement on fishing rights after December 31 when transitional arrangements end.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been particularly vocal on the issue as he looks ahead to a reelection race in 2022, but in a moment of irony reminiscent of the blue passport fiasco, he may not need to fret.
According to reports in The Times last year, a Defra tender handed the contract to track UK and foreign-licensed boats in British waters to French firm Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS) after previously being held by British firm, Globavista.
CLS is part-owned by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French government space agency, and the Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer, the oceanographic institution.
Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, said at the time: “It is ludicrous at a time when we’re supposed to be taking back control of our fisheries that we’re handing over the policing of them to a company part-owned by the French government.
“I warned the fisheries minister George Eustice several months ago of the political danger of such a move. I can’t believe anyone with any political nous would make a decision such as this.”
Defra said: “As the previous… contract came to an end, a fair and open competition was held to ensure the UK has the latest technology and receives the best value for money.”