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Scottish Tory MPs lead revolt against Theresa May’s Brexit plan over fishing policies

Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Conservative MPs
Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Conservative MPs

Scottish Tory MPs are leading the revolt against Theresa May’s plan to tie the UK to the EU for an extra year.

The Prime Minister infuriated all sides of her party by indicating she is ready to delay the UK’s final departure from Brussels structures until 2021 in the hope of breaking the deadlock over the Irish border.

Ross Thomson, the Brexit supporting Aberdeen South MP, and David Duguid, the MP for Banff and Buchan, both openly criticised Mrs May’s plan. Others admitted most of the Scottish group was “p***** off”.

Leave-backing Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Penny Mordaunt signalled concern that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU should proceed swiftly.

And former minister Nick Boles – who is backing a “soft Brexit” – warned the prime minister was “losing the confidence now of colleagues of all shades of opinion”.

Mrs May’s plan would likely keep the UK part of the Common Fisheries Policy into 2021, meaning Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson would go into the next Holyrood election with fishermen still subject to its rules.

Ms Davidson has promised to use her influence over No 10 to make sure the “hated CFP” is scrapped.

Ross Thomson, MP for Aberdeen South.

Mr Thomson said Mrs May’s proposal to extend the so-called transition period was “a dangerous idea” that would not gather support in Parliament.

He said: “We also lose our rebate but even more dangerously it would tie our fishermen into the hated Common Fisheries Policy for longer which is both destructive to the industry and totally and utterly unacceptable.”

Mr Duguid, whose constituency includes major fishing towns of Fraserburgh and Peterhead, demanded any extension does not prolong the UK’s adherence to CFP.

He said: “If extending the transition period delays us taking back control of our waters after December 2020, this would be of real concern to the fishing industry and to MPs across the UK who represent fishing communities.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said “it would make no sense whatsoever” for the CFP to continue beyond 2020.

He said: “There is a genuine fear among fishermen that any extension to the UK’s time in the Brexit waiting room would be used by the EU to place conditions on the return of fish stocks that are rightfully ours via long-term agreements that would be difficult to disentangle in years to come.”

Mrs May’s transition plan – during which the UK would remain in the single market and customs union and subject to EU rules – is intended to provide time for authorities and officials to prepare for new arrangements following the official date of Brexit in March 2019.

The prime minister admitted there were “more difficult moments” to come before agreement is reached but claimed she had found “a very real sense that people want that deal done” among her fellow leaders.

Scotland’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said: “This has been yet another humiliation for the prime minister.

“Tory divisions are paralysing the UK Government and leading Scotland to the brink of a catastrophic no deal outcome.”

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