Imports of goods from the EU: letter to stakeholders

Letter from Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands following UK Government announcement on further delays to introduction of customs and SPS controls on imports of goods from the EU.

To: stakeholders
From: Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon MSP

On 28 April 2022, without any consultation with the Scottish Government, the UK Government made an announcement on further delays to the introduction of customs and SPS controls on the imports of goods from the EU. Time and time again, the UK Government have unilaterally made decisions in devolved areas that impact on Scottish people and business without consultation with the Scottish Government. To not involve Scotland in such an important decision, which has clear biosecurity and trade risks, completely disregards the principles of devolution.

This is the fourth time that the UK Government has made changes to the timetable for the introduction of import checks on certain products from the EU. Such repeated changes conclusively demonstrate that the UK Government lacks any concrete Brexit plan. This delay ignores the farmers, local authorities, port authorities and businesses who invested considerable resources to prepare for the introduction of these import checks. They will all continue to incur costs preparing for uncertain future trading arrangements and as such, the UK Government must accept that additional funding is required.

The announced delay also prolongs the unequal playing field between our importers and exporters as the latter continue to labour under paperwork and compliance burdens. The red tape that our exporters face is a direct consequence of the UK Government choosing a ‘hard Brexit’ with the EU.

The UK Government has also failed to acknowledge the biosecurity implications that this delay will bring. The risk of exposure to exotic animal diseases will continue, most notably the potential introduction of African Swine Fever from the EU into Great Britain. The introduction of this virus would have devastating consequences for our farming sector, which continues to suffer as a result of a ‘hard’ Brexit. The Scottish Government is calling for immediate engagement from the UK Government to mitigate these risks and put in place effective safeguarding measures.

To claim, as the UK Government has done, that the delays to import controls will help ease the cost of living crisis is largely disingenuous. Brexit has already led to trade friction which has increased costs for businesses and consumers and will continue to do so.

In order to avoid widespread confusion and trade disruption, Scottish Ministers will reluctantly change Scotland’s import requirements in line with the UK Government’s announcement. The UK Government, however, must meaningfully engage with the Scottish Government and the Devolved Administrations. We must all be equal partners in shaping our border policies.

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