March 19, 2018 / 2:23 PM / a month ago

Scots take hard line on Brexit fishing rights

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Politicians on both sides of the divide in Scotland criticized a Brexit transition deal which failed to deliver full control over fishing rights, with Conservatives suggesting they could not support a final agreement unless it did so.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party called the deal a sell-out and a Conservative Party member of the British parliament said it would be easier “to drink a pint of cold sick” than sell it as a success.

According to a transition deal published on Monday, Britain will remain within the European Union Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which covers fishing stocks and vessel access, for the 20-month period after Britain leaves the EU.

Fishing is a particularly sensitive subject as it is an industry primarily based in Scotland.

Tensions are already high north of the border because of a dispute over how Brexit will change the balance of powers devolved out of London, including those covering fishing and agriculture. The SNP-led Scottish government and its Welsh counterpart have accused Prime Minister Theresa May’s government of mounting a power grab.

May does not have a majority in Britain’s parliament and will rely on the backing of the 13 Scottish Conservative lawmakers to push through a final Brexit deal.

Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, said it was disappointing that Britain would have to wait until 2020 to assume full control over fishing rights.

“Having spoken to fishing leaders today, I know they are deeply frustrated with this outcome,” she said.

“I should make it clear today that I will not support a deal as we leave the EU which, over the long-term, fails to deliver that full control over fish stocks and vessel access,” said Davidson, who is not a member of the Westminster parliament.

FILE PHOTO: Scotland's Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson speaks to the Independent think tank IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) in Edinburgh, Scotland September 1 2017. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Douglas Ross, a Conservative who represents one of Scotland’s main fishing areas, Moray, also said he could not support a deal that does not give full control.

“There is no spinning this as a good outcome, it would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick that try to sell this as a success,” he said

The fishing industry blames the EU policy for what they say is the destruction of fishing since Britain joined the EU four decades ago, and support for Brexit in the sector is high.

The Scottish government’s Rural Economy Secretary, the SNP’s Fergus Ewing, attacked the Conservatives, saying they had delivered the worst possible outcome for Scotland’s fishing industry .

“The Tories have demonstrated once again that for them Scottish interests are expendable,” Ewing said. “They now think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it.”

Europe imports about 75 percent of Britain’s fishing catch. Britain wants to allow foreign ships to fish in its waters after Brexit, but wants to decide itself the extent of that access.

After transition, Britain will negotiate as “an independent coastal state,” a British government spokesman said.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Britain had won agreement for safeguards in the annual fishing negotiation for 2019, the spokesman said, with the EU having to consult Britain ahead of the negotiations, as well as a commitment that the British share of the total catch cannot be changed.

The transition deal flies in the face of statements by Davidson and environment minister Michael Gove, another Scot, who last week set out a view that control over fishing was “vital” to Scotland, raising expectations that British control over fishing would be achieved from Brexit day in March, 2019.

Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary in Edinburgh and Elizabeth Piper in London; editing by Michael Holden

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