Britain is preparing natural resource claims on tens of thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean floor, stretching from Rockall Island off the Irish coast down to Las Malvinas and Ascension in the south Atlantic.
The British claims are being rushed to the United Nations ahead of an international deadline for registering interests.
New deep-sea drilling technologies mean that previously inaccessible oil and gas deposits can now be made commercially viable.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, states may register their rights to a continental shelf if they can show that it extends from their territories before falling away into deep ocean.
Preliminary talks on Rockall, which is claimed by Ireland, Britain, Denmark and Iceland, are being held in Reykjavik this week.
The new claim by the British government ahead of the talks was criticised by the Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources as “not very helpful”.
Rockall has been at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between Britain and Ireland for more than 50 years.
In September 1955 two Royal Marines were dropped onto the rock by helicopter where they planted a Union flag and cemented a plaque claiming British sovereignty.
The British government then claimed it had invaded Rockall to prevent the former Soviet Union from using it as a spy base.
In 1985 Donegal TD Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher claimed Rockall as part of his constituency.
“It is the wealthiest part of any constituency in the Irish Republic, surrounded as it is by thousands of square miles of unpolluted fishing grounds and large untapped reserves of oil and natural gas,” he said at the time.
In 1992 west Belfast brothers Philip and Fergus Gribbon attempted to build a dwelling on Rockall, but were refused planning permission by Donegal County Council.
In 1997 Rockall was invaded for the last time when three Greenpeace activists took over the north Atlantic island to protest at the continued exploitation of the world’s oil reserves.
The protesters announced that they had changed Rockall’s name to Waveland.
In Gaelic folklore Rocabarraigh, as the island is known, is supposed to appear three times, the last being at the end of the world.