DOWNING St has rejected a suggestion from Ireland’s Leo Varadkar that if the UK wants a post-Brexit deal on financial services with the EU, then it will be conditional on doing a "trade-off" on granting its member states access to UK fishing waters.

In an interview with the BBC, the Irish Taoiseach spoke of trade-offs in the post-Brexit negotiations on trade.

"Whatever final future economic partnership we come up with, it will have to be quite detailed. Because what happens in these things is trade-offs. For example, the United Kingdom has a very strong position on fisheries. The UK has a lot of waters and a lot of fish is taken out of your waters by boats from other countries but bear in mind 70 per cent of the fish you sell, you sell into Europe.

"So unless British people are going to start eating an awful lot more fish, you have a problem there. But that's an area where you're in a strong position. An area where you're in a very weak position is one of the most valuable parts of the British economy which is financial services. It's such a crucial part of the of the British economy. And areas like the entertainment industry. And if financial services and entertainment, audio visual are cut off from the single market, the European market, that will be a very severe blow to the British economy and the southeast, in particular in London.

"So, you know, you may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order for us, in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services and that's why things tend to be all in the one package," he added.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman insisted: “Our position on fishing is not going to change. We are going to be taking back control of our own fishing waters.”

Asked if that ruled out any quid pro quo deal with the EU27, he replied: “We are taking back control of our waters. We have been clear on that both in the manifesto and when the PM spoke with the Commission President. The EU should be in no doubt about our determination on that issue.”

Asked if “full control of our fishing waters” also meant giving access to EU27 states, he said: “It will be for the UK to determine in the best interests of the United Kingdom who fishes in its waters.”

However, a leaked European Council memo that promised to “demonstrate particular vigilance…in protecting fishing enterprises and coastal communities” raised concern among Scottish politicians.

And last week, Charles Grant, the Director of the Centre for European Reform, told a Holyrood committee that senior UK Government officials had indicated they would “trade-off” or “bargain” with Scottish fishing to “get a better deal on financial services”.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP MSP, said: “Despite the Tories promises, Scotland’s fishing industry could end up with precisely no gains whatsoever from Brexit. Worse still, it looks like our fishermen could be subject to Common Fisheries Policy rules without even having a voice or a say on the inside.

“Boris Johnson needs to be held to account for his false promises; the Tories sold out Scottish fishermen on the way into Europe, and they’ll do the same on the way out.”

He added: “We’re just days away from crashing out of the EU against our will. It’s time for some honesty from the Tories on how they intend to secure a close economic partnership with Europe without putting fishing on the table.”

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland MP, also expressed concern and urged the UK Government not to use fisheries as a “bargaining chip” in the trade negotiations with the EU.

Speaking after meeting members of the Norwegian Fisheries Committee at Westminster, Mr Carmichael said: “Documents from the European Commission make it plain that they see the status quo as the goal for fisheries negotiations. The Government must prove it has some political will to fulfil the many promises made about an independent fisheries policy during and after the election.

“Their words say one thing; actions speak louder. The move of fisheries from the binding Withdrawal Agreement into the non-binding Political Declaration already suggests that the Government may not be all that invested in ‘taking back control’ in this area.

“We saw the irony last week of a Brexit Party MEP complaining that we will spend the rest of 2020 under the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. This is a direct consequence of the Government’s abandonment of our fishermen.”

He added: “Northern Isles fishermen remember all too well the last time a Tory Government treated the fishing industry as expendable. Repeated, explicit promises by this Government to fishermen must be respected. Fisheries are not Boris Johnson’s bargaining chip with Brussels.”

But last Wednesday during his People’s PMQs from Downing, Mr Johnson made clear the UK Government would not “trade away” access to Britain’s fishing waters.

He was asked if he could guarantee the UK would have full control of its fishing waters after Brexit, the PM replied: “Yes, we will take back control of our fishing waters. We will ensure that we become an independence coastal state once again, having full jurisdiction over the 200-mile limit of our spectacular maritime wealth.

“We will make sure we don’t trade away Britain’s fishing rights as they were traded away for instance in the accession negotiations in the early 1970s. Be confident about fish,” he declared.