Top Scots food brands face bleak future in post-Brexit global trade deals

Post-Brexit trade deals with non-EU countries such as the US could put protected Scottish foods at risk, according to a leading figure on the European Parliament's internal market committee.

Whisky is one of the 14 Scottish Protected Geographical  Indications (PGIs) that are likely to be at risk after Brexit, losing their protected status as the US is lobbying against it. Picture: Neil Hanna
Whisky is one of the 14 Scottish Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) that are likely to be at risk after Brexit, losing their protected status as the US is lobbying against it. Picture: Neil Hanna

Products such as 
Stornoway black pudding, Arbroath Smokies and Scotch 
whisky currently have Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs), which means they 
cannot be made anywhere else.

Previous concerns have been raised over the iconic status of Scottish brands, and Scottish Labour MEP Catherine Stihler has warned the UK government’s insistence on negotiating new trade deals after Brexit could jeopardise the PGIs.

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A trade deal between the UK and EU is likely to continue with Europe-wide protection in return for the UK recognising PGIs such as champagne and Parma ham.

But the EU currently uses its strength to fight for PGIs on the global stage, including in ongoing trade discussions with the US. The US is lobbying against protected status, and there are fears the UK could be forced to sacrifice the set-up to secure its own trade deal with Washington.

It is also unclear whether UK PGIs will continue to be covered in other countries that currently recognise the EU-wide scheme.

Ms Stihler is vice-chair of the European Parliament’s internal market committee. She said: “The success of Stornoway Black Pudding resulted in ‘copy-cat’ products, so I fought hard to ensure it had protected status across the EU and in the deals the EU negotiates with other countries.

“But the protected status of iconic Scottish products is now at risk as a result of the Tories’ reckless Brexit plans.

“The USA is lobbying hard against the scheme, and that could be the price for a post-Brexit UK/USA trade deal. There’s also no guarantee that other non-EU countries will automatically recognise the existing arrangement, as the concept is still quite rare on the world stage. It’s simply disgraceful that Scottish businesses are being put at risk.”

Scotland currently has 14 of the UK’s 84 PGI food and drink products, with the EU guaranteeing that no trademark interference can occur in reference to the name of an area, region or, in exceptional cases, a country, used as a description in the name of any food or drink brands.

The most popular examples of Scottish PGI products include the Arbroath Smokie, Scottish wild and farmed salmon and Scotch whisky. Scotch lamb and beef PGIs have played an important role in establishing them as brands outside Scotland.

A range of Scottish dairy products also enjoy protected status, including Orkney Scottish Island cheddar, Teviotdale Cheese and Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop Cheese.

A number of other brands are in the process of being considered for the scheme.

Scotland’s Brexit minister Mike Russell has previously called for continued protected status for such key brands, insisting the issue has not been considered by the “little Englanders” negotiating the Brexit deal.

The Scottish Government became embroiled in a political row earlier this year amid claims it sought to “bully” Marks and Spencer into using the Saltire on Scots sourced foods after the retailer had moved to brand such products British. The revelations were branded “appalling” by Theresa May.

But Nicola Sturgeon has defended the move and stressed the importance of the Scottish brand and the Saltire in terms of “properly promoting our produce overseas and at home”. “There is lots of evidence that says a significant proportion of people in Scotland would choose to buy Scottish if they had the correct information and the awareness of that,” she said.

Scotland’s food and drink sector is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s vision for the country’s economic future. Overseas Scottish food and drink exports were worth approximately £6 billion in 2017 – almost £570 million more than 2016.