One year on Brexit threats outweigh farming opportunities

One year on from the UK’s departure from the European Union, a call has been issued for Westminster to address the significant Brexit issues still affecting Scottish farming, food and drink.

NFU Scotland’s policy director, Jonnie Hall
NFU Scotland’s policy director, Jonnie Hall

Commenting on today’s anniversary of the signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), NFU Scotland said that while the deal had brought a new era of tariff-free and quota-free trade between the UK and the EU, it had proven to be far from ‘friction-free’.

The union said it would continue to press the UK Government to introduce proper border control inspections on produce coming into the UK from the EU which met the same stringent standards as UK exporters had to meet when sending goods and produce to the continent.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol is also damaging trade between Scotland and Northern Ireland,” said the union’s policy director, Jonnie Hall.

He said that the need to address the costly impact of permanent and seasonal labour shortages across the whole food and drink chain - which has also been exacerbated by Brexit - also remained a priority for Scotland.

“Likewise, after a year, Scotland’s high-value, high-health seed potatoes remain locked out of valuable European markets.

“Trade with the EU in the first 12 months of Brexit has been far from smooth,” said Hall.

“The friction at border controls for Scottish producers exporting to the EU, however, has been compounded by the UK Government continuing to grant ‘grace periods’ to imports from the EU from similar controls.

"That ‘asymmetric’ trade remains ongoing and is a damaging consequence of the UK’s lack of practical preparation for Brexit.

“Add in issues around specific products, such as seed potatoes, and specific issues such as the Northern Ireland Protocol and it’s clear that post-Brexit trade with the EU remains challenging at best and potentially damaging for some.”

And he said that leaving the EU and the Single Market and the loss of free movement of labour had created production, harvesting and supply chain issues, particularly in the fruit and veg sectors, in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants and on pig, poultry and dairy farms, none of which had been helped by issues with the seasonal workers pilot scheme.

“Closer to home, the full implications of the UK Internal Market Act and the UK Subsidy Control Bill are yet to be realised in terms of just how level the UK’s single market will be.

"Trade with other parts of the UK remains the most important outlet for Scottish produce by far.”

Hall also struck out at the Free Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand, which he said cast a very dark shadow over UK and Scottish agriculture.

“It remains disappointing that, as we go into 2022, there remains so many Brexit unknowns. As things stand, the potential threats to Scottish agriculture continue to vastly outweigh the potential opportunities.”

But he said that lobbying efforts would continue in Westminster to get greater commitment for the sector from the UK Government.

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