Brexit: Theresa May denies fishermen being ‘sold out’ for sake of deal

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Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged the interests of Scotland’s fishermen will be protected after Brexit despite being accused of using the industry as a “bargaining chip” in the negotiations.

The details of how future UK-EU relations will work on issues such as trade and security were outlined yesterday in a draft agreement.

Mrs May has insisted the political declaration is 'the right plan for the UK'. Picture: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Mrs May has insisted the political declaration is 'the right plan for the UK'. Picture: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Mrs May has insisted the political declaration is “the right plan for the UK”, which will set the country on course for a brighter future.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Tory government at Westminster was preparing to “sell out” the Scottish fishing industry.

Following EU withdrawal, the UK will no longer be part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which is unpopular with the industry in Scotland.

The UK Government’s draft agreement on post-Brexit relations says the UK will be an “independent coastal nation”.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation gave the plan a cautious welcome, but the First Minister said it amounted to a “Tory sell-out”.

Asked about the issue at First Minister’s Questions, she said: “The political declaration that has been agreed between the UK Government and the European Commission this morning represents another Tory sell- out of Scottish fishermen.

“What we see is that the Scottish fishing industry will be used as a bargaining chip in wider trade talks.”

She recalled last week all 13 Scottish Tory MPs sent a letter to Mrs May, making clear that after Brexit the UK “must be able to negotiate access and quota shares on an annual basis without any pre-existing arrangement being in force” and “this means that access and quota shares cannot be included in the future economic partnership”.

But she said paragraph 75 of the declaration stated: “Within the context of the overall economic partnership, the parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on access to waters and quota share.”

She added: “There is no mention of annual negotiations, which I happen to know the UK Government was trying to secure and they failed. In terms of David Mundell’s position I would simply say this – his position is a matter for him, but if David Mundell is still in office by the end of today in light of this political declaration he will have forfeited forever any last remaining scrap of principle or credibility that he had.”

Scottish Tory MP Ross Thomson branded the political declaration “unacceptable” as he said the UK “must be a normal independent coastal state like Norway”.

He tweeted the “political declaration commits UK to establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter allia, access to waters and quota shares” and added: “This means sovereignty over our waters sacrificed for a trade deal.”

Mr Mundell said he was “not taking lessons on standing up for fisherman from Nicola Sturgeon, who is committed to trapping them in hated CFP”.

He added: “The PM has fiercely resisted the efforts of EU states to make an explicit link between access to our waters and access to markets.

“We will negotiate and decide, as an independent coastal state, on access and quota on an annual basis just like Norway and Iceland do now. The surest way to guarantee the EU access to Scottish waters would be to rejoin the CFP – exactly what Nicola Sturgeon is demanding.”

Addressing the issue of fishing rights in the Commons yesterday, Mrs May said the agreement reached with the EU would not be “traded off” against other priorities.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “The declaration gives the UK the power to assert its position as an independent coastal state with practical sovereignty over our waters.”