The faux outrage from the SNP against the Brexit deal was to be expected. If Boris Johnson had announced the deal included a multi-million-pound lottery win for every Scottish citizen, Nicola Sturgeon would have claimed it was “too little, too late” and Ian Blackford would have denounced it as a “Tory sell-out.” The SNP government’s media machine had their press releases prepared before we even knew we had a deal. 

Unpalatable though it may be for the separatists,  the Brexit agreement is the biggest free trade deal in history, worth an estimated £600 billion to the UK. It is also the first free trade deal based on zero tariffs and zero quotas ever agreed by the EU. Britain has regained control of our laws, borders, money, trade and waters. With economists predicting that our economy will grow by 6.1% this year, we can look forward to the ‘roaring twenties’ with frictionless trade continuing between the UK and EU, while we secure a range of free-trade deals with other nations around the world. The fact that Boris Johnson managed to secure such a breakthrough agreement by the end of the 12-month transition period, during a pandemic crisis, is almost miraculous.

It is amazing that this historic agreement was almost derailed at the last minute by the endless dispute over fisheries, which accounts for only a miniscule 0.1% of Britain’s GDP. Goaded by the SNP, some fishermen were screaming ‘betrayal’ before the deal was even signed, despite knowing that securing immediate “complete sovereign control of UK waters” and kicking out all foreign vessels, could only ever have been achieved by no deal. If we had crashed out of the transition period with no deal, it would have led to the imposition of crippling tariffs on seafood products exported to the EU, with up to 15% on unprocessed fish. This would have been a body blow to Scotland’s burgeoning fish export markets. Customs checks on seafoods at the channel ports would have cost the industry up to £15 million annually and would have led to costly delays, which the processing and shellfish sectors in particular feared. Using the new variant coronavirus as an excuse, President Macron closed the French border for a few days in December as a warning to Britain of what would happen if we ended up with no deal. The resulting chaotic tailbacks and delays in the channel ports left truckloads of Scottish prawns, langoustines, white fish and salmon rotting in their crates. 

Boris Johnson knows that the fishing industry in Scotland is of much greater social, economic, cultural and even political importance than it is anywhere else in the UK. 60% of the UK’s total catch is landed in Scottish ports. Nevertheless, 71% of the UK’s fish exports go to the EU, which remains our most important market. So, when the French insisted on a fourteen-year transition period (they originally wanted 40 years) during which their fishermen would continue to enjoy full access to UK waters, Boris Johnson fought hard to negotiate this down to five and a half years, with 25% of EU quota being transferred to British fishermen from 1st January 2021 to 30th June 2026. This means that by the middle of 2026 our fishermen will be landing an extra £163 million of fish. The Prime Minister has even pledged a £145 million fund to modernise UK fishing ports and harbours, in preparation for this windfall. After 2026, EU access to our waters will be subject to annual consultations. Britain, having regained our status as an independent coastal state, will be able to set total allowable catch (TAC) limits and quotas and allocate them accordingly. 

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already accused the Conservatives of having “sold out Scottish fishing all over again”, revisiting the nationalist myth that Ted Heath sold out our fishing rights to the ‘foreigners’, when Britain joined what was then the EEC in 1973. The truth is somewhat different. When Ted Heath signed up to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), international maritime law gave a country jurisdiction only out to 12 miles. Beyond 12 miles was deemed international water. As part of Britain’s accession negotiations Ted Heath insisted on securing a derogation for Britain out to 12 miles for a period of 30 years, thus protecting UK fishing interests in a European Economic Community that at that time only numbered 6 Member States. It was during the ‘Cod War’ from November 1975 until June 1976, when Iceland unilaterally declared a 200-mile fisheries limit, that international maritime law was changed and every country was able to take control out to 200 miles or the median line. At that point, Jim Callaghan’s Labour Government signed over control from 12 to 200 miles to Brussels in a complete act of betrayal of UK fishing interests. 

But the SNP never allow facts to get in the way of a good anti-Tory bellyache. Nicola Sturgeon fumes that Scotland voted overwhelmingly for remain and Brexit has taken us down a path we never wanted to tread. She conveniently forgets to mention that Scotland’s fishing communities bucked the trend by voting overwhelmingly for Brexit. SNP promises to take an independent Scotland back into the EU and therefore back into the hated CFP are brushed under the partitionist carpet. The nationalists pretend that they would negotiate an opt-out for Scotland to retain control over our own waters, but the concept of a tiny, new Member State with a population of five and a half million, dictating terms to the twenty- seven other EU Member states with a combined population of more than 450 million, is risible. The CFP’s equal access to EU waters by all European fishing fleets has been a cornerstone of the EU treaties from the start and an independent Scotland could never avoid it. Independence would be the ultimate act of betrayal for Scotland’s fishermen and their families.

Britain formally left the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy yesterday. The SNP’s decision to vote against the Brexit trade deal exposed their hypocrisy and opportunism. They want to re-join the EU and re-join the CFP.  In their obsessive bid to destroy Britain they will destroy Scotland as well.