Scottish Tories warn Theresa May over post-Brexit fishing rights

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Scottish Conservative MPs including the Scottish Secretary David Mundell have warned Theresa May that they will not support a Brexit deal that gives unrestricted access to EU fishing fleets.

In a letter signed by all 13 Scottish Tories at Westminster, the group warns that the Prime Minister that she “must deliver” on expectations that Brexit “will lead to complete control and full sovereignty over domestic waters”.

There has been mounting speculation in recent weeks that a proposed UK-wide customs agreement with the EU, designed to ensure that trade continues to flow over the Irish land border, will come at the cost of European fishermen maintaining their access to British fishing waters.

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Mr Mundell is understood to have read the draft withdrawal agreement reached by negotiators in Brussels on Tuesday night.

It is expected to include reference to fishing rights within a five-page outline political declaration covering the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU.

In the letter, which was hand-delivered to Downing Street as a crucial cabinet meeting to sign off the withdrawal agreement got underway, the Scottish Tory MPs tell Mrs May: “You have made welcome statements throughout the Brexit negotiations that leaving the EU will mean leaving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and negotiating as an independent coastal state from December 2020.

“You said in your conference speech that anything less would be a ‘betrayal of Scotland’ and we completely agree.

“This has raised expectations in the fishing industry that Brexit will lead to complete control and full sovereignty over domestic waters that we must deliver on.”

The letter continues: “In order to deliver on these expectations, we could not support an agreement with the EU that would prevent the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares.

“That would mean that we would not be leaving the CFP in practice and would be becoming an independent coastal state in name only.

“At the end of the Implementation Period, we must be able to negotiate access and quota shares with the EU and other third countries independently on an annual basis, without any pre-existing arrangement being in force.

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“This means that access and quota shares cannot be included in the Future Economic Partnership, allowing the UK to become an independent coastal state both in principal and in practice.”

The letter adds that the UK “cannot remain in the CFP after December 2020”, following suggestions that the post-Brexit transition phase could be extended beyond the current 21-months.

“Our coastal communities have already made the difficult compromise of accepting extending CFP membership throughout the Implementation Period and they have made it clear to us that they will not accept any further extension,” the MPs state.