Johnson has said it is ‘very, very likely’ the talks will fail, and Britain will revert to WTO terms.
Britain on Saturday readied armed Royal Navy ships to patrol its fishing waters if tempers flare after a “no-deal” Brexit as a make-or-break deadline approached for talks with the European Union.
Four 80-metre vessels have been placed on standby to guard British waters from EU trawlers in case the two sides decide to abandon efforts to secure a free-trade agreement on Sunday.
The development is part of increased contingency planning on both sides of the Channel, and evokes memories of the “Cod Wars” with Iceland over fishing rights in the North Atlantic in the 1960s and 70s.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it is “very, very likely” the talks will fail, and Britain will revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) terms with its largest single trading partner.
European leaders have also been told the chances of a deal are slim with both sides at loggerheads over rules to govern fair competition and fishing rights in British territorial waters.
Deal or no deal, Britain will leave the EU single market and customs union on the evening of December 31, more than four years after a landmark referendum on membership of the bloc.
Hardline Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs have sought assurances from Mr. Johnson that the Navy should be deployed to protect British waters.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed it has conducted “extensive planning and preparation” for a range of post-Brexit scenarios from January 1, and has 14,000 personnel on standby to help with the transition.
The four boats would be part of a “robust enforcement measures”.