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Talks between Lord Frost and Michel Barnier continue virtually this week as officials on both sides hope to secure a deal before next week. But Cabinet Office Minister Mr Gove warned the First Minister of Scotland the talks were being undermined as a result of her and Scottish officials intervention.
In a letter to Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Michael Russell, Mr Gove said the First Minister and the Scottish Government’s contacts with the EU chief negotiator were “detrimental” on the UK stance on fisheries.
In the letter, seen by Express.co.uk, Mr Gove expressed “disappointment” of the contact Edinburgh had.
He claimed Edinburgh generated an impression the fishing industry supported Brussels demands for UK waters.
Mr Gove made clear the UK Government represented “the interests of people right across the country, including in Scotland, and is negotiating with the EU on a UK-wide basis.”
He added: “The Scottish Government accepts that international relations, including with the EU, is a reserved matter, and remains the sole responsibility of the UK Government.
“For this reason, I should record that we have been disappointed by the political level contacts that the Scottish Government, including the First Minister, have had during the period of the negotiations with the EU’s UK Task Force and specifically the EU’s Chief Negotiator.”
Mr Gove said in the eyes of UK officials “this kind of contact and specifically the discussion of sensitive issues under negotiation” had negatively “affected the negotiating dynamic.”
He concluded: “In particular, the EU appears to have concluded from these contacts that EU offensive asks (for example on fisheries access and the permanent maintenance of the status quo on unfair Common Fisheries Policy quotas) are outcomes the Scottish Government, and perhaps even more damagingly, Scottish stakeholders, support.
“This is highly regrettable and damaging to UK interests including in Scotland.”
An EU source close to the negotiations, added: “We are negotiating with the UK Government on a trade deal.
“Talks continue virtually this week with a focus on fisheries and the level playing field.”
Mr Gove’s letter comes after Mr Russell claimed Westminster had not been “working collaboratively” with their Scottish counterparts on Brexit.
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Mr Russell said the Scottish Government along, with other devolved administrations, had been “simply ignored” by the ministers in London as they “recklessly decided to end the transition period at great cost to Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole”.
Edinburgh remains concerned about the lack of progress on fisheries, a major economic sector in Scotland and have been holding regular talks with Brussels on fisheries and agricultural related matters.
The UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the year, and without an agreement there could be tariffs and quotas imposed on trade with the bloc.
Any deal would need to be approved by the EU’s leaders and MEPs, and it is understood an emergency session of the European Parliament could be held as late as December 28 to vote on it.
Daniel Ferrie, EU Commission spokesman said problems remained in terms of fishing, governance and the level playing field.
The PM’s official spokesperson said it had very clear the UK will become an independent coastal nation.
A spokesperson for Constitution Secretary, Michael Russell, added: “It is beyond belief that in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession the UK Government is determined to force on Scotland a low deal, or even a catastrophic no deal, Brexit outcome.
“The responsibility for this is entirely the UK Government’s as they alone have been conducting the negotiations.
“The Scottish Government will always stand up for Scotland’s interests, and make absolutely no apology for doing so.
“We remain extremely concerned about the approach being taken by the UK Government, which clearly goes against the interests of the Scottish seafood sector and our coastal communities, and puts at risk almost £700 million of seafood exports to the EU.”
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