May faces Scottish fish revolt
The UK Conservative government has been accused of agreeing to a “massive sell-out” of Scottish fishing interests in the Brexit transition deal secured with the European Commission.
The UK government has been told that Scotland’s Conservative MPs would vote against any Brexit deal if any further ground is given to Brussels over fishing.
This week’s transition deal secured with the European Union yesterday (Monday) effectively keeps the UK’s fishing fleet under EU rules until the end of 2020.
The agreement has angered both Scotland’s fishermen, who wanted to “take back control” of their coastal waters next year, and embarrassed the Scottish Conservative MPs who had promised that Britain would leave the common fisheries policy (CFP) next March.
Employers across the UK broadly welcomed the “breakthrough” Brexit deal struck after embattled Prime Minister Theresa May made concessions over the rights of EU citizens. But Scotland’s fishing representatives condemned the agreement which will mean fishing opportunities continue to be under negotiation during the two-year transition period. The industry had expected May to withdraw from the CFP on the day the UK left the bloc, which is pencilled in for March 2019.
Last week Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader in the Edinburgh parliament, teamed up with Michael Gove, the pro-Brexit British environment secretary, to insist that the UK must leave the CFP on Brexit day next year.
Fishing lobbyists said Davidson was guilty of a “dereliction of duty” and some Scottish Conservative MPs joined in the criticism of ministers in London.
Davidson was left embarrassed after a major climbdown by Brexit “bulldog” David Davis during negotiations in Brussels which mean that the EU will continue to set fishing quotas during the transition period.
She made promises to communities in northeastern Scotland who switched from the Scottish Nationalist Party to vote Conservative in last year’s general election in a bid to “take back control” of fishing stocks.
Conservative MP Douglas Ross, who won Moray from the SNP with his pro-Brexit position, said: “There is no spinning this as a good outcome.
“It would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than to try to sell this as success.”
Monday’s Brussels transition deal means the EU will, as expected, set the fishing quota for 2019, while the UK remains a member.
But in 2020, during the transition period, the EU will continue to set the quota and only “consult” London.
Davis had claimed a guarantee that the “UK share of total catch cannot be changed” would protect the sector.
Scottish pro-EU protesters in Manchester last year. Picture credit: Eurasia Times