IAN Blackford has described “as fanciful” suggestions by David Lidington the UK is “holding cards” in trade talks.

The SNP Westminster leader hit out after the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy insisted access to UK fishing waters would not be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.

The Cabinet Office Minister was asked if he could give fishermen a guarantee that, when it comes to negotiating a future agreement, there would be no link between fishing and access to UK waters and a broader trade deal.

“Yes, we’ve made that absolutely clear from day one. The Prime Minister has repeated that in the House of Commons. Not only has that been the Prime Minister’s position, if you look at the way the EU has approached its trading relations with every other third country outside the European Union, access to waters and trade have been treated as completely separate matters, not interlinked matters.”

He admitted future negotiations would be “complex”, but added: “I don’t think Theresa May can have been any clearer than she’s been on this – these are separate issues and historically the EU has always treated them separately.”

But Blackford told the BBC Lidington was “deluded” and stressed the EU would “drive a hard bargain” in any negotiations over fishing.

Asked whether he accepted the Cabinet Office Minister’s “guarantee” a fishing deal will not take wider trade agreements into account, the SNP MP replied: “No, not at all, he’s either deluded or he hasn’t read what the EU has been saying about this. The EU 27 issued a document last weekend that made it absolutely crystal clear that future negotiations on fishing would start from the position of the existing quota shares. The idea that Europe is not going to have access to our waters and is not going to drive a hard bargain on this is simply missing the point spectacularly.”

He claimed fishermen are a “bargaining chip” for the UK Government in negotiations with the EU, adding: “The prospect that we’re holding cards in these negotiations is simply fanciful and it really is about time that David Lidington and others actually told the truth about this, that they came clean.”