Yea or Nay-vy: A ‘Brexit’ Battle on the Thames

Rival flotillas sailed the river harboring gill will ahead of the June 23 referendum that will decide the U.K.’s membership in the EU.

Stefan Wermuth / AP

It was bound to happen schooner or later: Two rival flotillas—one supporting Britain’s exit from the European Union and the other wanting the U.K. to remain—sailed down the Thames on Wednesday and engaged in an exchange of hose fire (no Sir Francis Drakes here) until a police launch had to keep them apart outside Parliament. (Ladies and gentlemen, we merely report the news.)

Nigel Farage, undoubtedly buoyed by polls showing the “Leave” side leading ahead of the June 23 referendum, led a flotilla of fishing boats up the Thames to protest what he called the “destruction” of Britain’s fishing industry because of EU membership.

“There are now many harbors without a single commercial vessel,” said Farage, who heads the U.K. Independence Party. “Compare and contrast all of this with Norway [not an EU member] who control all fishing stocks up to 200 miles within the North Sea and has a booming commercial and angling tourism industry.”

His rivals in the debate didn’t sea it that way. Farage’s flotilla was met by one led by Bob Geldof, he of Live Aid fame. Geldof seemed to be angling for a fight, playing the song “The In Crowd” over his vessel’s speakers. And, he said:

Here are the facts about fishing. One, Britain makes more money than any other country in Europe from fishing. Two, Britain has the second largest quota for fish in Europe after Denmark. Three, Britain has the third largest landings. Four, you are no fisherman’s friend.

Farage took the bait, calling Geldof’s counter-protest “just disgusting.”

With just more than a week to go before the June 23 referendum, Britons will likely look at the flotilla fracas and ask themselves whether they cod do batter.