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Theresa May heads off fishing rebellion after 10-minute meeting with Tory MPs

3 min read

Rebel Tory MPs have called off their rebellion over fishing rights during the Brexit transition following a 10-minute meeting with Theresa May.

They had been angry at the Government for agreeing that the UK will abide by Brussels rules for 21 months after formally leaving the EU on 29 March, 2019.

Douglas Ross, the Conservative MP for Moray, said it would be "easier to get someone to drink a pint of sick than try to sell this as a success".

PoliticsHome revealed how a meeting yesterday between Tory MPs from coastal constituencies and government chief whip Julian Smith erupted in fury after he told them to accept the deal because "it's not like the fishermen are going to vote Labour".

The MPs met with the Prime Minister in 10 Downing Street at noon today, but it ended after just 10 minutes so they could go to the Commons to hear Environment Secretary Michael Gove answer an urgent question on the row.

Mr Gove, a fierce opponent of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, said the Government was "disappointed that the EU were not willing to move" on the issue during the Brexit negotiations.

He added: "There is a significant prize at the end of the implementation period, and it is important that all of us in every area accept that the implementation period is a necessary step in securing that prize.

"For our coastal communities it is an opportunity to revive economically. For our marine environment it is an opportunity to be managed sustainability. And it is critical that all of us, in the interests of the whole nation, keep our eyes on that prize.”

"I will happily acknowledge there is disappointment in fishing communities. As someone whose father was a fish merchant, and whose grandparents went to sea to fish, I completely understand how fishing communities feel about the situation at the moment. I share their disappointment."

John Lamont, the Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said the Government remained "on notice" they must ensure the UK takes full control of its fishing waters at the end of the transition period.

But striking a far more conciliatory tone, he said: "Today's meeting gave Scottish Conservative MPs the chance to put the concerns of fishing communities direct to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment.

"We share those concerns and the determination to ensure that, come the end of 2020, we take full control over our waters as we leave the EU.

"I very much welcome Michael Gove's comments in Parliament that, after the transition, the UK Government will decide who can access our waters and on what terms.

"The Government should be clear that they are on notice - no deal for fishermen, and they will have to think again on the terms of our departure."

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