Ryan Scatterty, chairman of the Scottish Seafood Association which represents fish processors, said he was “highly disappointed” to hear that senior figures at Holyrood had called for the UK to backtrack on its strict demands for fishing rights. The comments by Scottish Government officials were made during talks between the SNP Government and the bloc, which are separate from the post-Brexit trade talks between Brussels and Whitehall.
Ms Sturgeon and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, are among those who have been taking part in the discussions over the past few months.
The Scottish Government is said to have told the EU “both sides need to move a bit” on the contentious topic of fishing.
Mr Scatterty told Express.co.uk said he felt “highly disappointed” to hear that Ms Sturgeon had gone behind the UK Government’s back “to almost offer up the fishing rights” of Scots in return for a path for Scotland to re-join the bloc.
He said he had no doubt that ministers’ actions were “undermining” the UK’s trade talks with the EU, which this week continued in Brussels.
Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish ministers have been accused of ‘undermining’ the UK in trade talks
Scottish fishermen are counting on Boris Johnson to secure a fair deal for them
He said: “They have made perfectly clear that the long-term aim of the current Scottish Government administration, the SNP party, is that they wish to re-join the European Union.
“Well, quite simply, to re-join the European Union means that we will be bargaining away our fishing rights so there wouldn’t be any upside.”
Mr Scatterty refuted the claim by Scotland’s rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing that the post-Brexit trade talks would not have hit a brick wall over fisheries had officials in Holyrood been allowed to take part.
While he believes SNP ministers’ no-deal concerns for the fishing industry are genuine, he said their actions and words are damaging Britain’s position.
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Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said Holyrood officials should be involved in trade talks
Mr Scatterty said he felt concerned that “the intervention they seem to be making is not helping us to get a deal for everyone”.
He added: “Foreign affairs and trade deals are a reserved matter, not a devolved matter.
“The Scottish Government and the SNP ministers in particular have made no secret of their desire for Scotland, if we were to gain independence, to become part of the European Union again.
“By doing that they are simply going to bargain away the fishing rights or any potential benefit we would get from Brexit.
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Nicola Sturgeon has been involved in talks with the EU, separate from trade negotiations
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“Clearly, one of the benefits for the United Kingdom coming out of the European Union would be taking control over our fishing rights again.”
Informal talks between Mr Barnier and the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost continued in Brussels this week before the ninth round of negotiations will kick off on September 28.
On Wednesday the head of the European Commission warned the chances of reaching a trade deal with Britain were fading by the day.
Ursula von der Leyen said: “With every day that passes, the chances of a timely agreement do start to fade.”
EU countries most reliant on the UK for fishing
The EU has asked the UK to withdraw the Internal Market Bill, which seeks to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Boris Johnson has refused to bow to the EU’s demands and is pushing ahead with the Bill which the Government has admitted will break international law.
A spokesperson for Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Michael Russell blamed the Tories for “selling out” the UK’s fishing interests when former Prime Minister Ted Heath signed the accession treaty to the European Economic Community, which took effect in 1973.
And they said the Conservatives were once again poised to sell out the fishing rights of British fishermen.
Trade talks between the UK and the EU have so far failed to produce any fruit
The spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Either the UK Government reneges on its promises regarding access to fishing waters – or it forces a situation which will see devastating tariff and other export barriers placed on our seafood sector.
“With the Tories threatening to wreck all prospects of securing a deal with the EU by openly declaring their intention to break international law, it is gobsmacking hypocrisy for them to accuse anyone else of undermining the negotiation process.
“The UK Government has ignored the wishes of the people of Scotland – who overwhelmingly want to remain in the EU – throughout this process and everybody knows responsibility for the current mess is entirely down to the hard Brexiteers who have taken over the Tory party.”