The Potential Implications on UK EEZ Security Post Brexit

by TheWarBlog 11 months ago in defense

The Effects of Brexit on UK's Exclusive Economic zone(EEZ)

The Potential Implications on UK EEZ Security Post Brexit

United Kingdoms Exclusive Economic Zone

On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom (UK) voted on a referendum to leave the European Union. This decision to leave the European Union (EU) will mean that there will be changes to the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, which will raise new security challenges.

The European Union has had a huge role in the United Kingdom for the last few decades with many laws coming from the EU, as well as trade, which has become hugely important for the UK and for many states within the EU, especially the Republic of Ireland. This means that The United Kingdom would have to negotiate with the European union so that they can get the right agreement allowing trade to be able to flow between the two.

As the United Kingdom is the first state to leave the European Union, the Future for both the EU and the UK is uncertain with there being no examples to be able to compare the exiting of the UK from the EU. So, with there being no examples to be able to compare to, it is completely down to predictions and guess work as to whether the UK will be better in or out of the EU in the long term.

One of the big issues that will be affected and have implications because of Brexit would be the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). ‘The EEZ is a Maritime zone, which is territorial sea to a state, which must not extend more than 200 Miles from the baseline of the state’s coast. The state will have rights to the conserving and managing of natural resources, both living and non-living, of the seabed, subsoil, and the subjacent waters, and with regard to other activities, for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone. The state has freedom to conduct military exercises, and allowing who can enter these waters.’ The UK has the fifth largest EEZ in the world 6,805,586 square km, which does not include the Antarctica.

UK EEZ across the globe

The implications for the UK on its security of the EEZ will depend on the negotiations between the UK and the EU. The UK and the EU, which all the states must agree to will need to come to an agreement to avoid a no deal. Unless there is some type of an agreement between the UK and the EU, both sides will have to follow the United nations convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) part V, which outlines the international law of the EEZ that all states must follow.

Currently EU ships can enter the UK EEZ and vice versa, and be able to gain some economic benefits from each other’s zone but outside of the EU, Ships will still have Freedom of navigation and have no restriction on the vessel, except that it should not be engaged in either piracy or slave trading, and a vessel may not participate in research, exploration or exploitation within the EEZ of a coastal State without that State’s permission. Ships engaged in piracy maybe apprehended by any State. Foreign warships enjoy the same freedom of navigation as merchant vessels and may conduct naval manoeuvres within the EEZ providing that there is no threat to the interests of the coastal State and the international community. States may lay pipelines, submarine cables and enjoy other uses of the sea within an EEZ, provided that they have due regard for the rights, laws and regulations of the coastal State and for freedom of navigation.

Exiting the European Union

With a no deal between the UK and EU something that is highly possible, a no deal situation will have lots of implications for the UK, and especially its overseas territories like Gibraltar and the Channel Islands, which are UK’s crown dependencies.

For the UK it will bring more responsibilities for the security of its EEZ without the possibility of EU’s support. For the EU, it would mean that they will lose a huge amount of EEZ for states within the EU to be able to exploit, which could have potential economic consequences. For the UK they will be able to exploit its own EEZ without any other EU state being able to exploit it without the UK permission or perform any scientific research, but this will also be an implication for the UK not being able to do the same in the EU EEZ without a deal or permission.

A no deal would cause many problems in the EEZ with security. It could possibly see problems with fishing from EU states in UK waters, there could also be problems with immigration due to the risk of the Le Touquet treaty being ended. The Le Touquet treaty allows the UK to check passports in France. If this was scrapped, then for the UK, they wouldn’t be able to stop any illegal immigration coming to the UK until they have reached UK entry points.

In this scenario for the UK and the EU, it will mean that there will be implications that the UK and the EU will both have to deal with. When I talk about a no deal this is a scenario where both sides do not come to an agreement so any agreements that currently exist between the UK and the EU and any rights in the EEZ will cease to exist. An example of a policy would be the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds and allows fishermen to compete fairly. A no deal Brexit would end this policy meaning that both sides will not be able to exploit either sides EEZ. The UK fisheries industry needs to be protected so that it does not affect the economy because of Foreign Fishing boats. The UK needs to make sure that the industry is still getting the fish source that is needed to be sustained and will need to make sure that Foreign fishing boats do not enter and take from UK EEZ which they would be breaking UNCLOS if they start fishing in UK EEZ and it would be the same for the UK in European Economic Zone. This will be extremely important around the areas of the Channel Islands, Ireland and for Gibraltar.

The UK will still need to prevent any harm to the environment, and that means it will need to protect its marine population, and stop its waters from be polluted. It will need to make sure that no foreign state can harm its environment, and will need to take any action when this occurs. This can be seizing the ship and the people on board when required, but this needs to be used as a last resort. This would be risky because this could possibly cause tensions with states if the UK starts to seize ships from the EU. You can see how tensions can raise by seizing foreign ship with the example of Iranians' oil tanker Adrian Darya-1 originally known as Grace 1 and the UK owned ship Stena Impero. This is a basic overview of the effects of exiting the EU with a no deal.

Great Britain

The EEZ around Great Britain and Northern Ireland makes up a large part of the European Economic Zone and lots of states take advantage of this opportunity and will exploit these waters for their own gain. But with a no Brexit, states within the EU will not be able to exploit the waters, which can have an economic consequence for the business that are relaying on fishing and any other resources that they may be exploiting from UK waters. The European Union’s Council of Ministers sets the tonnage of specific fish, or ‘Total Allowable Catch’ (TAC), which can be caught within EU waters and then divides this between each member state. Leaving the European Union would mean that the UK will exit the EU common fisheries policy (CFP), which allows all European countries access between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the UK and sets quotas for how much fish nations can catch. The effects of this is that the UK would be able to set their own fishing regulations on fishing and preventing other states from being able to exploit British waters. This give the UK full control of all the economic advantages of its own EEZ but leaving also means that UK can not exploit EU EEZ without an agreement. we see fishermen gather scallops in French waters, but this will eventually be stopped, leaving the EU with no deal.

Leaving the CFP will mean that the UK can take back control of the Fishing in its EEZ and can have its own control over the security of its fishing industry, but most of all the security of its fish population. Britain will need to set a quota that would work for the fishing industry and the fish population. Research will need to be done to understand what the right quota for the British Fishing industry will suit it best. This will take many years of statistics to fully understand the trend of the fishing in the EEZ. Also, there will still need to be some sort of an agreement, which will need to be decided with the EU, because many of the Fish will migrate in and out of UK and EU EEZ. Both sides will need to come to an agreement so that one side does not take most of the fish, leaving very little for the other to be able to fish. If an agreement was not to be agreed upon, then both sides will compete to gain most of the fish, which can, in the long term, hurt the economy and the depletion of fish populations, causing devastating damage the environment and life off and on land.

If foreign boats do enter UK EEZ then the UK may be able to proceed with enforcements procedures on these boats to protect the EEZ Fisheries. Some level of enforcement will need to be able to take place on those that are breaking regulations. Under the 1982 Convention of the law of the sea, A coastal state may exercise its sovereign rights which means that the UK will be able to take measures on EU fishing boats which will include boarding, inspecting, arrests and juridical proceedings to ensure compliance in UK law. The UK should not hesitate to be able to enforce its rights to these procedures to prevent and deter foreign fishing.

Shipping that passes through the UK’s EEZ can ultimately stay the same due to UNCLOS Article 58 which states, ‘In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.’ The UK will have to respect all ships being able to pass through the EEZ as long as they do not pose any threat for the security of the shipping that pass though UK EEZ and UK land. The best way to deal with this would be to have a designated Shipping channel where Ships will be able to pass through UK EEZ without causing any concern for security in the EEZ. With this, shipping shall have due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal State and shall comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of this Convention and other rules of international law. If they do not follow the UK law, then the UK should perform any enforcement procedures that be deemed necessary. UK will also be allowed to refuse any shipping into British ports, but this can also happen within the EU, so this can affect trade after a no deal Brexit. If this happens then the UK and the EU must agree to a deal so that trade between the two can carry on which will be a security problem for the both the UK and EU economy, but checks must still be carried out on these ships. But we must allow any ship to enter port in case of any distress, but they must not be able to disembark from the ship unless they have been given permission to do so.

Navigation of Military ships in EEZ is very controversial. These ships will remain under the Article 58 allowing them freedom of passage as long as they do not become threatening to the state and must remain in the channel that has been designated for safe passage. This security issue is already in place with the Royal navy having a fleet ready escort which is responsible for escorting any warships that pass through the channel. The Fleet ready escort would usually consist of Frigates or destroyers to shadow any ships that enter UK EEZ. Even though UK is part of NATO, along with many other EU countries, the consideration that UK may have to escort warships from the EU may be a possibility due to a no deal. The best type of ship to deal with this would most likely be a type 45 or a frigate like the HMS Argyll with the support of the Poseidon which is a maritime patrol aircraft which will be able to keep tracking these ships while the HMS Argyll which is a type 23 frigate which is designed for war fighting and taking on other ships can shadow the ship.

HMS Argyll

Immigration can be a concern, especially if the Le Touquet treaty is cancelled meaning that Britain will not be able to check passports until they arrive in Britain, and once they have arrived in Britain, they will be able to seek asylum. This will mean that there will have to be more security at borders and docks in the UK, and this can be time consuming by holding up ferries. This will then lead to problems in ferry routes between in the EEZ. Also, there may be a possibility that ferries may be cancelled and stopped causing huge traffic problems with lorries. Both UK and EU can stop these ferries meaning any transport by sea may be stopped, and will not be allowed to enter docks. For the security of both sides and to prevent this from being a long term issue a deal must be done, especially between France and the UK so that checks can still be done.


The EEZ of Gibraltar is very small, but will have a huge affect upon them on a no deal Brexit between UK and the EU. Spain has claims over the territory, and tensions have always been around between the two states. Spanish fishermen will come into the EEZ and start to fish and will protest that they have the right to do this. In 2013 Spanish fishermen have sailed into disputed waters off Gibraltar to protest about a reef put there by the British territory's government. With the UK leaving the EU with a no deal Brexit, Gibraltar will have to leave the EU with a no deal as well, which will cause more problems with Spanish fisherman especially. The Royal Gibraltarian police are responsible for the protection of the EEZ. With a no deal, there will more than likely be more incidents with fishermen, so this can be a serious security issue for other ships in the area, especially when the straits of Gibraltar is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world with nearly half of the worlds seaborne trade passing through. so, it needs to be open all the time without any problems of security from Spanish fishermen. In The past the UK have sent Royal Navy ships as a deterrent over to Gibraltar. In 2013 after the protests from Spanish fishermen, the Royal Navy warship HMS Westminster arrived in Gibraltar as a deterrence. Ships like HMS Westminster could be used for regular routines but also could be a warning and a deterrent from more protest and escalation of any issues. In a no deal Brexit I believe the best course of action would be to have a permanent naval force for the protection of the EEZ. At least one frigate would be a strong deterrent and will be a firm commitment that the UK is there for the security of Gibraltar. The use of Gibraltar's EEZ would be very similar to Great Britain in the English Channel. Fishing would restricted from outside states but they would not be able to access Spain's fishing areas. With the EEZ being extremely small the fishing industry in Gibraltar would suffer badly due to the limit of space to be able to fish. exploiting other areas would be very difficult as well due to the small space that they would be able to use to exploit but on the other hand it would be very easy for the Authorities to protect the area compared to Great Britain's EEZ.

As mentioned before the straits of Gibraltar is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and can have nearly half of the world's shipping pass through it. This is a massive security issue for the UK post Brexit. A large part of Gibraltar’s economy relies on shipping entering the port for refueling. The EU may decide to find a new place for ships to be able refuel due to UK leaving the EU without an agreement. The UK needs to make sure that they keep using the port for refueling with agreements with the EU over Gibraltar. As before with Great Britain, ships will need to be monitored when entering the EEZ and making sure that they are not exploiting the waters and the Police force in Gibraltar able to carry out all enforcement procedures when needed.

Many of the effects on the UK would vary with a no deal Brexit. it is hard to truly know if UK will be better off or worse off due to the many factors. but some ways of effectively dealing with a no deal would be.

  • Work closely with the EU over security of shipping lanes.
  • New treaties so that trade can still happen with ease between the UK and EU through the EEZ .
  • Increase deployment of ships around Britain for security for ships passing through the EEZ, protection of British Fishing and other industries to be able to maximise exploitation, but protecting the environment at the same time—and to be able to shadow any Foreign warships that enter the EEZ .
  • Carry out enforcement procedures on foreign ships according to the UN convention of the law of the sea .
  • Have a permanent naval force in Gibraltar for deterrent and security of its EEZ and for all the shipping that passes through the EEZ .
  • •Protect Gibraltar’s shipping economy by coming to acceptable terms with the EU without compromising its sovereignty.
  • Work closely with France to prevent any changes to the le Touquet treaty and to protect ferry transport across the English Channel.
  • Agree to a quota that is acceptable for the United Kingdom with the European Union so that fish population does not deplete and not have a negative effect on the fishing industry on either side.

These policies will help support the UK and its overseas territories in Europe, and help minimise any implications that a no deal Brexit may have on the EEZ, and the variety of other areas that it may affect.

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