Blair warns fish­er­men over Brexit

● For­mer PM warns in­dus­try won’t ben­e­fit by leav­ing Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM PETERKIN PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

Tony Blair has warned fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties they are un­likely to ben­e­fit from Brexit, as in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives pre­dicted that the UK’s fleet could face a block­ade within 48 hours of com­ing out of the EU with­out a deal.

The for­mer prime min­is­ter yes­ter­day said it was “not at all clear” that com­ing out of the Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy (CFP) would make the fish­ing sec­tor bet­ter off.

He in­sisted that estab­lish­ing post-Brexit fish­ing ar­range­ments would take “years”.

Mr Blair’s re­marks came as ma­rine con­sul­tant, Terri Port­mann, told MPs that a lack of vets to com­plete pa­per­work for fish ex­ports would lead to the fleet be­ing tied up if the UK crashes out of the EU with­out a deal.

At an Ed­in­burgh lunch or­gan­ised by the Scot­tish Par­lia­men­tary Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Mr Blair also urged Labour not to use in­de­pen­dence as a “bar­gain­ing chip” for SNP sup­port to get Jeremy Cor­byn into Down­ing Street.

The for­mer Labour leader at­tacked Mr Cor­byn’s Brexit po­si­tion, say­ing it took “a good half hour” to ex­plain – and said Labour should be unashamedl­y Re­main and pro-Union.

Mr Blair con­ceded that Brexit added a “di­men­sion of ar­gu­ment” to the Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence cause but he re­mained op­posed to a se­cond ref­er­en­dum.

As a Re­mainer, Mr Blair was asked what he would say to north-east vot­ers who backed Brexit on the ba­sis that the UK would leave the CFP.

“The Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy, for all its faults and dif­fi­cul­ties, is con­structed out of a set of cir­cum­stances that aren’t go­ing to be al­tered by Brexit,” Mr Blair said. “When you come back and you ne­go­ti­ate on what would be a new Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy you are go­ing to have to deal with those prob­lems.

“So it is not at all clear to me that the fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties are go­ing to be bet­ter off with Brexit once you go through that ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

Mr Blair ar­gued that ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships would have be “dis­en­tan­gled” at a time when the EU was wor­ried that the UK was set­ting it­self as an off­shore, low-tax, lightreg­u­la­tion com­peti­tor.

“So this ne­go­ti­a­tion is go­ing to be much more com­pli­cated for all these things in­clud­ing fish­eries and agri­cul­ture. We are go­ing to spend many more years ar­gu­ing about Brexit.”

Scot­tish Fish­er­men’s Fed­er­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive, El­speth Macdon­ald, last night said ex­it­ing the CFP would end the “un­bal­anced sit­u­a­tion” whereby 60% of fish caught in UK wa­ters is by non-UK ves­sels.

KEEP IT SIM­PLE: Tony Blair said Labour needed half an hour to ex­plain its com­plex Brexit po­si­tion

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