Potential implications for rural Scotland of the UK leaving the EU

Interim report from the National Council of Rural Advisers.

Legislation & Standards

Closely linked to the issue of trade, is concern over the impact on regulatory requirements from the UK leaving the EU.

This is critical for rural areas, particularly with respect to natural capital as well as animal, plant and product standards. Effective transfer of all EU regulatory requirements to the UK in the immediate post-exit phase, including mutual recognition of systems between UK and EU should provide stability, continuity, avoidance of standards-based obstacles to the Single Market and maintain consumer confidence. This would require the UK to ensure continued regulatory equivalence in those areas relevant to trade. For example in order to have disease free status (essential for food exports), the UK would need to update their legislation to keep pace with any changes to EU legislation.

The UK has some of the highest farm animal welfare standards in the world and there is cross-sector support for maintaining high levels of farm animal health & welfare after Brexit. In order to achieve this we understand that the UK Government must transpose existing EU law on farm animal health & welfare into domestic law so as to be effective on day one after Brexit. Thereafter, the Scottish Government, or the UK Government or both, in consultation with the industry, consumers and other relevant stakeholders, will be able to consider whether to make appropriate and agreed changes to these standards.

A significant amount of attention has been focused on the potential for environmental protection to be "traded-away" during UK Government trade negotiations (with the EU and non- EU countries).

However, it has been recognised that many of the environmental rules adopted to facilitate the operation of the single market (such as product standards) will have to stay in place if the UK wants to trade with the EU irrespective of the outcome of Brexit.

Of course it may be the case that new trading relationships with states outside the European Union could lead to increased competition from countries with lower food standards, animal welfare standards and environmental protection. This risks putting UK food and drink supply chain at a competitive disadvantage, making it more difficult to agree and implement a strong future UK environmental policy. This is not just an environmental concern; soil health, animal welfare, plant health, veterinary, food quality and labelling standards are equally at risk of lower standard imports; together with eroded consumer confidence in the products.

From a consumer and competition perspective, UK law is currently consistent with EU legislation, which aims to provide everyone in Europe with better quality goods and services at lower prices, and applying a common set of rules to make sure companies compete fairly with each other.

Whilst this arrangement has largely benefitted consumers the distinct characteristics of rural Scotland (consumers living in rural, remote and island areas), means that even within current arrangements, issues in areas such as deliveries, transport, fuel, energy and particularly broadband provision continue to prevail.

Post Brexit we should:

  • Ensure Scottish consumers and businesses continue to enjoy the same rights and protections as those in the EU.
  • Ensure Scottish businesses are able to continue trading internationally without new obstacles caused by regulatory standards.
  • Introduce a bespoke, distinctive and creative Scottish approach to consumer protection and competition that meets the needs of rural Scotland, recognising that there may still be a need to adhere to EU rules.
  • Ensure that Scotland plays its part in the development of any bilateral trade agreements and in doing so ensure that same trading conditions (including standards) apply to our imports as to our exports.
  • Ensure that any reframing of EU regulation and standards suit the Scottish context, is based on strong science and avoids unnecessary complexities and burdens for businesses and consumers.


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