Downing Street has said Boris Johnson maintains confidence in the fisheries minister after she admitted not reading the post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels when it was agreed because she was busy organising a nativity trail.
Victoria Prentis faced calls for her to quit after the comments, but the prime minister is standing by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) minister.
Asked if her jaw had dropped when she saw the deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, Prentis told the Lords EU environment subcommittee: “No, the agreement came when we were all very busy on Christmas Eve, in my case organising the local nativity trail.
“We had 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’m sure members of this committee had, a gamut of emotions over those four days.”
A No 10 spokesperson told the PA news agency that the prime minister had confidence in Prentis, 49.
But the Scottish National party took a dim view of the behaviour of Prentis, the MP for for Banbury and North Oxfordshire, and insisted that she should stand down.
The comments came following delays to seafood exports after the Brexit transition period ended on New Year’s Eve.
Companies trying to export fish and other Scottish seafood have encountered red tape since the new trading rules with the EU came into force.
The SNP’s Brexit spokesperson, Philippa Whitford, said: “Due to Brexit-induced bureaucracy, Scotland’s fishing communities are already experiencing severe disruption and cannot get their produce to their customers in the EU market on time.
“For the Tory government’s fisheries minister to then admit that she did not even bother to read the details of the damaging deal because she was too busy is unbelievable and makes her position untenable.”