Scottish Secretary Mundell satisfied Brexit deal protects fishing industry

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has given his backing to the draft Brexit deal, claiming it will deliver for the fishing industry.

All 13 Scottish Conservative MPs had written to the Prime Minister to raise their concern over fishing rights after leaving the EU.

They said they would not support an agreement which would prevent the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares.

Now, Mr Mundell has said he is satisfied their concerns were met and he could give the deal – which was given its blessing by the Cabinet after more than five hours – his support.

He said: “I was content to move to the next stage of the process on the basis that Brexit will deliver for our fishing industry – as I and colleagues set out in our letter – and on the basis that arrangements for Northern Ireland will not undermine the economic or constitutional integrity of the UK.

“I hope there will be agreement at the European Council later this month and we can move to a vote in Parliament.

“The worst possible outcome for Scotland and the whole of the UK would be a no-deal departure from the EU.”

However, industry leaders are seeking clarity from the Prime Minister on the proposed new fisheries agreement within the Brexit settlement.

They have concerns about a link between access for EU vessels to UK waters and tariff-free access for UK seafood suppliers to the EU market.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “The industry’s priority has always been taking back control of decision-making over who catches what, where and when in our waters, so that we can end once and for all the grossly unfair situation where 60% of our stocks are taken, gratis, by boats from other EU nations.

“That would mean the UK becoming a fully independent coastal state with its own seat at all the relevant international fisheries negotiations from December 2020 on and regaining its proud status as one of the world’s major fishing nations. Negotiations over trade terms for seafood products would follow on from this.

“Any linkage between access and trade contravenes all international norms and practice and is simply unacceptable in principle.

“Therefore we have asked the Prime Minister for assurances that the establishment of a new fisheries agreement as laid out in the Brexit arrangements does not imply that EU vessels will be guaranteed continued access to our waters in return for favourable trade terms.”

The Government must win the backing of MPs in Parliament in order to pass its Brexit plan.

Last month, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Mr Mundell indicated they could resign if a Brexit deal introduces different arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said MPs will now be able to fully examine what is on offer in the deal.

He added: “On fishing rights, as all Scottish Conservative MPs have made clear today, we are seeking assurances that Britain will have control over our waters and quota shares after the transition period ends.

“It’s always been the case that European vessels will continue to fish in our waters, but Britain needs to be in charge, with the ability to negotiate annually.”