Scots industry leaders give guarded welcome to trade deal

Industry leaders in Scotland have given a guarded welcome to trade deal struck between the UK and Europe.

Food and drink bosses gave a guarded welcome to the deal
Food and drink bosses gave a guarded welcome to the deal

There are now calls for a transition "vouchers scheme" to be introduced for smaller firms and a "grace period" to be agreed on new export checks which could result in further delays at the border.

Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland policy chair, said the likely impact won't be known until the detail of the deal is scrutinised.

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“The news that UK and EU negotiators have managed to strike an eleventh hour agreement sounds like good news for Scotland’s business community," he said.

"But until we understand the detail of the deal, it is difficult to forecast the overall impact on smaller firms north of the border.

“The end of the transition period will still result in a major change in trading conditions for many firms. Given that Scotland’s smaller firms have faced down an oppressive year, we need to see the UK Government help smaller operators with depleted case reserves adapt. That’s why we need to see a transition voucher scheme, as well as additional publicly funded support, rolled out as soon as possible.”

James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said the deal was struck "ridiculously late in the day."

But he added: "This will ensure we avoid crippling tariffs of up to 80% on some of our key food exports. That is good news.

“However, before Ministers start popping champagne corks, they need to be alive to the danger of more disruption at our ports in just a few days’ time.

“The tariff threat is averted but we remain hugely concerned at the wave of new export checks about to be introduced. He added: “We would urge the UK Government to now seek a grace period on the introduction of new export checks on 1 January.

"The UK is already planning to waive checks on most imports from the EU and on some products moving between Northern Ireland and the GB mainland. We desperately need the same for our exports to the continent. Otherwise I fear the scenes we have witnessed of horrendous border disruption over recent days could be repeated, especially with new Covid testing now also required.”

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