THE ROYAL Navy’s fleet of cadet training ships could be pressed into service with the “Cod Squad” under emergency plans to protect British fishing grounds in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Commando raiding teams are poised to use inshore patrol boats – which are just 20 metres long – to board foreign super-trawlers found trespassing in UK waters.
The military are also putting drones on standby to patrol The Channel.
The 14 Archer class boats, known as P2000s, are normally used by Navy cadets.
They first entered service in 1985 and take a crew of five.
But they are standby to reinforce the fishery protection fleet – which has shrunk from 17 to four warships tasked with patrolling 7000 miles of coast.
“The P2000s could carry a boarding team of six or seven Royal Marines,” a source said.
“They are not designed for fishery work. Compared to a super trawler they are tiny and if boats start ramming each other they will be in trouble.
“But it is one of the options put forward to ministers who are worried about how we protect our waters from illegal fishing vessels. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
The P2000s can travel at up to 25 knots and have a range 550 nautical miles but they are not designed to spend more than 24 hours at sea.
They would be backed by RAF spy planes, including the new P-8 Poseidon sub hunters which can scour the high seas for signs of wayward ships.
The Navy has eight offshore patrol ships designed for fishery work – but only four will be available to protect UK waters when the Brexit transition ends on New Years’ Day.
Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord West, said the Navy may have to hire tugs or oil rig support vessels, to increase its presence in UK fishing grounds.
“You have to make do with what you have got,” he said. “As a temporary measure the P2000 can cover an area, give a warning, tell us what is going on but it is not well placed to bump into a big trawler.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “The MOD has conducted extensive planning and preparation to ensure that Defence is ready for a range of scenarios at the end of the Transition Period.
“This preparation includes a standby package of 14,000 personnel to ensure that we are ready to support other government departments and authorities over the winter period, including with the EU transition, Covid-19 and potential severe weather events.”
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