30 December 2020

S5M-23815 Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): Our debate is on motion S5M-23815, in the name of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on the trade and co-operation agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

On 30 September 1938, Neville Chamberlain came off a plane at Heston airport in London after many days of fog. On 24 December 2020, Boris Johnson, like Neville Chamberlain, waved his bit of paper that represented the most gross and manifest capitulation to the interests of others. Neville Chamberlain at least was cheered along the Mall when he went to brief the monarch, although it did not last terribly long. Boris Johnson could not even arrange for a crowd to cheer this grubby little deal that we find ourselves debating today.

Ruth Davidson spoke to us about what she sees as the benefits of the deal, and she spoke about the headlines. However, the headlines may giveth but the small print taketh away. I have had to double the size of the print of the agreement where fishing is concerned, because the relevant numbers were in five-point print.

We have heard about the 25 per cent increase in quotas. There are 87 lines on pages 902 to 906 of the agreement and each of those lines shows a different stock with the outcomes for it between now and 2026 and beyond. How many of those lines show an uplift of at least 25 per cent? The answer is four: hake from the North Sea, hake from the western waters, horse mackerel from western and Norway pout. For the fish that are important to us—cod and haddock—the quota is going down. That is why skippers in the north-east of Scotland have been saying that this deal is worse than membership of the common fisheries policy. It is not a better deal.

Let us look at some of the other numbers. How many of the 87 lines on quota give the UK at least 50 per cent of the catch? The answer is 25. How many of those lines give us the 100 per cent of catch that we were promised as an independent coastal state? None. Not a single one. That is why there has been celebration across Europe. The EU got everything that it wanted. The Frankfurter Allgemeine quoted Douglas Adams in its headline yesterday—“So long, and thanks for all the fish”.

Of course, those of us who have read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” know that, when the most powerful computer was asked what the answer was to the most important question, the computer, after 3 million years of computation, came up with the answer “42”. By coincidence, in only 29 of the lines in this sell-out deal—a deal that is brought to us courtesy of Boris Johnson, the man who is master of not a single, dot, comma or matter of detail—is the UK’s percentage of quota as much as 42.

This is a shabby deal which, apart from the single exception that I have been able to find, sees skippers condemned without reservation. This shabby deal will place our fishermen—as well as our seed potato merchants—in a worse place than they have been in for decades.


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