Banbury MP Victoria Prentis issues statement after being accused of 'not reading' EU deal as fisheries minister

Victoria Prentis has issued a response after being criticised for claims she, as fisheries minister, did not read the EU trade deal on Christmas Eve.

By News Reporter
Thursday, 14th January 2021, 1:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th January 2021, 1:44 pm
Victoria Prentis, a member of Parliament for Banbury and North Oxfordshire
Victoria Prentis, a member of Parliament for Banbury and North Oxfordshire

Mrs Prentis is the fisheries minister and the contents of the deal have a major impact on the UK fishing industry - which was also a key issue during the Brexit negotiations.

Appearing before a Lords subcommittee Mrs Prentis was asked if her jaw dropped on seeing the agreement, to which she replied 'no' and explained at the time news broke that a deal had been reached she had been out helping organise a nativity trail.

National news outlets have reported that Mrs Prentis had 'admitted to not reading the deal'.

In a statement released today Mrs Prentis said: “I, like everyone else, had been waiting for several days for the deal. I had of course seen draft text on fisheries and discussed terms for months.

"The deal is very important to me. I ran a group called 'MPs for a Deal' during the difficulties which plagued the last parliament.

"After working throughout Christmas Eve, when finally the deal came I had just left the house for an hour and a half to organise the nativity in our village as I have done for the past 17 years. This year it was of necessity scaled back and outside in the churchyard.

“When I got back home I read the briefing note which by then had been prepared for me, talked to colleagues, and then hosted a cross-party Zoom call to which all MPs and peers were invited at 6pm.

"I was desperately keen to read the text of the Treaty (once a government lawyer, always a government lawyer) and did so as soon as it was published several days later.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to back Mrs Prentis in the wake of calls for her resignation from some quarters.

Mrs Prentis has come under fire after a conversation she had with the Lords EU Environment subcommittee.

Here is the transcript of the conversation for readers:

Lord: My Question is - 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?

Victoria: 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. I for one had gone through, as I am sure members of this committee have, a gamut of emotions over those 4 days, as many of us have truthfully over the last 4 and a half years. I am a passionate believer in having a deal. I think the deal is a good one for the UK.

"In fisheries terms it is true to say that, we had as an industry dreamed some pretty big dreams. Not least in the last 4 and a half years, but for much longer in some cases. It is also true to say we didn’t get everything we asked for. I was probably being a sort of battle-hardened lawyer, I was always quite aware that might happen. A negotiation is just that - you win some, you lose some.

"But I think taking the fisheries package overall we haven’t done as badly as you're suggesting. I am pleased we have a tariff free deal for trade to the UK. I accept what you say that there are other difficulties at the moment while we all get used to the new system and filling in new bits of paperwork of which we are not familiar yet but a tariff free deal is very, very important to our fisherman. It really is. The tariffs which were being suggested were high, 10-11% overall. 24% on our biggest export smoked salmon so that would have been a very difficult sell if we had come out without a deal.

"Taking the agreement overall, yes we have 25% uplift. That is undoubtedly a gain. It means we will have, after 5 and a half years, 25% more than we have at the moment. That’s great."