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  • January 14, 2021

Fishing minister too ‘busy’ to read fisheries Brexit deal when it landed over Christmas

The fisheries minister has raised eyebrows by disclosing she was busy organising a nativity trail on Christmas Eve when the Brexit deal on fish was agreed. Victoria Prentis insisted that the agreement was beneficial for UK boats when she appeared before the Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee on Wednesday, but conceded some quarters of the fishing industry had been hard done by. During the session Lord Teverson, the Lib Dem chairman of the committee, asked her: “Did your jaw drop as well when you saw this agreement that had been delivered in fisheries, when really this is such an iconic subject?” Ms Prentis replied: “No, the agreement came when we were all very busy on Christmas Eve; in my case organising the local nativity trail. We’d been waiting and waiting. It looked like it was coming for probably four days before it actually arrived.” Opposition MPs seized on her comments. Scottish Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael told The Daily Record: “Surely she could have taken a little time away from the festivities to look after her own departmental responsibilities?”. However, it was pointed out that the legal text of the post-Brexit deal was not published until several days later at which juncture Ms Prentis, a former Government lawyer, read it at once. She had been party to draft proposals on fisheries in the run up to the UK-EU agreement being finalised. On Christmas Eve the minister, who has organised the nativity play in her village church for the past 17 years, is understood to have been out of the house for only an hour and a half attending to the task. During the rest of the day she read the briefing note on the Brexit deal prepared for her by officials, and held calls with colleagues. At 6pm she hosted a cross-party Zoom briefing, to which all MPs and peers were invited. Over the past fortnight British seafood exporters have battled disruptions that began when the Brexit transition period ended on December 31. Companies have reported having to delay and cancel shipments to the continent owing to problems gaining the requisite approvals at EU ports. Scottish firms have been among the worst hit. Boris Johnson on Wednesday promised to compensate Scottish fishermen as he said there were “teething problems” with the new post-Brexit arrangements.

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