An SNP minister says Westminster is already beginning to behave like Brussels when it comes to its handling of the Scottish fishing industry.
Fergus Ewing said there are “early signs” that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was “taking on the mantle” of the European Commission.
The rural economy secretary made the comparison as he warned of the “real risk” that the Scottish fishing fleet could suffer as a result of a “last-minute shady deal” in the next few weeks.
He told the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy committee on Wednesday that there could be “very damaging” consequences because Scottish officials have not been involved in the negotiations.
‘A very foolish approach’
Fishing rules are reported to be one of the last remaining disputes preventing a Brexit deal between the UK and EU, with the transition period due to end on January 1.
With talks continuing, Mr Ewing fears that Scottish interests could be overlooked because Holyrood officials have been denied a seat at the negotiating table.
“The real risk now, in the next couple of weeks, is that some last-minute shady deal is done by Mr Frost, or whoever it is on the UK side, without reference to Scotland, and it has unforeseen, unintended adverse consequences for Scotland,” he said.
“This is just a very foolish approach because, frankly, the Scottish officials have the knowledge about Scottish fishing interests.
“I’m afraid the UK officials just don’t have the same degree of knowledge, probably because it is not their direct responsibility and therefore they are not so familiar with the highly complex issues involved, and this is unfortunate and potentially very damaging.”
The Inverness and Nairn MSP even compared the conduct of the UK Government to the European Commission.
“The Fisheries Bill produces a framework and the framework in itself, it’s not perfect but it’s workable,” he said.
“That’s not really the issue. The issue is that I think that the early signs are that the UK Government, in the discussions that are taking place, in the work that is being done to work out a bilateral deal, the Defra seem to be taking on the mantle of being, if you like, the new Commission.
“Instead of a partnership of equals, and bearing in mind of course Scots fisheries are much more valuable than the English fishery, far bigger than the English fishery, but despite that the early signs are that the UK Government seems to regard itself as the boss, the Commission, if you like.
“This is seriously worrying for me.”
The UK Government has been contacted for comment.