Scottish Tories 'disappointed' by Theresa May's failure to confirm end date for CFP

Auslan Cramb
Prime Minister is at odds with her Scottish MPs - PA
Prime Minister is at odds with her Scottish MPs - PA

Theresa May failed to quell a threatened rebellion by her Scottish MPs when she repeatedly refused to confirm that Britain will be out of the Common Fisheries Policy by the end of 2020.

The Prime Minister was asked three times to give an assurance that any extension to the country’s transition out of EU will have no affect on the timing of its departure from the hated CFP.

But on each occasion she failed to make that commitment, saying only that the interests of fishermen across the UK were at the forefront of her thinking.

Her comments leave her facing a rebellion from her 13 Scottish Tory MPs, who have signalled they are ready to vote down a Brexit deal if Scottish fishermen remain at the mercy of EU fishing quotas after the agreed date.

Douglas Ross, Conservative MP for Moray, said at the weekend that he believed there was unanimity among his colleagues and that he would not support a deal that meant staying in the CFP any longer.

He urged Mrs May in the Commons to “use far stronger language when it comes to the CFP and confirm that we will no longer remain tied to the CFP beyond December 2020”.

david mundell - Credit: PA
David Mundell has told Downing Street he will not support any extension to CFP Credit: PA

She replied: “The interest of fisherman across the whole of the UK are at the forefront of our thinking as we are looking at all of these arrangements and all of these proposals.

“I also recognise there are timetabling issues in relation to the ability to be able to negotiate as an independent coastal state once we leave the European Union and I can assure my honourable friend that we will be putting those concerns right at the forefront of our thinking.”

Mr Ross told The Daily Telegraph last night: “My question was particular, about will we still be tied to to the CFP in December 2020 and she had an opportunity to say unequivocally no, which I found disappointing.”

He said her answer left her odds with her Scottish MPs, adding: “We will be reinforcing that message over the coming days.”

She was also asked to give the same assurance by Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, and answered in similarly vague terms. The exchanges leave Mrs May at odds with all sides of her party.

The Daily Telegraph revealed last week that David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, had told Downing Street he would not accept any extension of the implementation period that delays the country’s exit from the CFP.

Asked by the SNP MP Pete Wishart if she was absolutely certain she still had “the full support of her friends from Scotland”, the Prime Minister replied: “Can I say yes, and can I say I welcome the significant contribution that my honourable friends from Scotland are making to debates in standing up for Scotland in this chamber.”

Under the current agreement, the UK will technically become an independent coastal state from March 2019, but the fishing industry reluctantly accepted a 21-month implementation period that means it will only negotiate as a separate state from December 2020.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, insisted there is no reason to keep Britain in the CFP any longer and has welcomed Mr Mundell’s backing.

He said the Scottish Government’s own modelling suggested leaving the CFP would be worth pounds540 million a year to Scotland, and 5,000 jobs coastal communities.