UK Government must remove link between seafood trade and access to waters.
Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government to highlight the potential damage to Scotland’s aquaculture and seafood interests, in the current withdrawal agreement.
The Cabinet Secretary raised serious concerns at the failure of the UK Government to ensure tariff-free access to the European market for Scottish seafood exports, and warned that non-tariff barriers Like customs delays at ports could be catastrophic for an industry that relies on frictionless passage across borders, particularly for fresh and live products.
Read the letter in full:
The Withdrawal Agreement reached by the UK Government risks being very damaging to Scotland’s aquaculture and wider seafood interests, with its explicit linkage of trade and access to UK waters in direct contradiction to what was promised in the UK Government’s White Paper on Fisheries.
Despite the Prime Minister’s claims, a direct link between seafood trade and access to waters has been conceded, allowing for exclusion of fisheries and aquaculture from tariff-free access through a temporary customs union under the ‘backstop’, if a fisheries agreement acceptable to the EU cannot be achieved. Worse still, aquaculture has been included in this linkage despite having no connection to access to waters or quota.
Salmon farming alone was the UK’s largest food export in 2017. Its inclusion is profoundly disturbing, risking the imposition of tariffs, which will inevitably increase the cost of exports, and perhaps even more importantly the spectre of non-tariff barriers hangs over Scottish seafood exports, which absolutely rely on frictionless passage across borders.
We have repeatedly stressed the devastating impact any customs delay would have, particularly for fresh or live seafood. Under the deal, Scottish seafood exporters to the EU also face the risk of significant, and devastating, new trade barriers. As well as tariffs, in relation to the farmed salmon industry alone it is estimated that an extra 45,000 export health certificates will need to be issued per annum, at significant cost to both businesses and public authorities.
At a time when we should be actively encouraging investment in Scotland’s economy, the UK Government has elected to go down a path that only sows the seeds of doubt and confusion. The Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to set one vital Scottish sector against another, and shows a complete disregard for these key Scottish interests.
That this deal should have been brokered without any form of meaningful engagement with the Scottish Government can only lead to the conclusion that, in the Prime Minister and UK Government’s eyes, Scottish seafood interests are expendable.
I would welcome your earliest thoughts.