North-east fishing industry could be used as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations, MP claims

PM Theresa May has refused to rule out using the North-east’s fishing industry as a bargaining chip during Brexit negotiations.

In her Lancaster House speech setting out how she would pursue a hard Bexit, Ms May mentioned the interests of Spanish fishermen during the negotiations to leave the EU.

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford pursued the point at Prime Minister’s Questions today at Westminster.

Dr Whiteford asked: “The Prime Minister’s passing reference to the interests of Spanish fishermen in her speech yesterday let the cat out of the bag, that access to UK fishing grounds is already on the table as a bargaining chip before the Brexit negotiations have even started.

“What exactly does the Prime Minister think she can offer Spanish fishermen?”

Ms May said: “I made a very simple point ysterday, which is that this negotiation is not just about the UK.

“There will be others in the EU who will be looking for ensuring the deal we get is good for the UK and good for the  EU.

“If she in any sense thinks continued membership of the Common Fisheries Policy is what we should be looking for, that is certainly not the case.”

Speaking outside the chamber, Dr Whiteford said: “It is now clear from what Theresa May has said that the Tories continue to consider the fishing industry of Scotland as expendable.

“The biggest risk to the ‘sea of opportunity’ the fishing industry anticipates from leaving the CFP is that our fishing opportunities are traded away during the course of the Brexit negotiations, leaving a ‘business as usual’ outcome for our fleet.

“The PM’s evasive answer today fuels my concern that fishing will be an expendable pawn in the UK’s Brexit negotiations, just as it was when the UK joined the EU in 1972.”