The UK Internal Market is critical to the interests of Scottish agriculture and the vitally important food and drinks sector it underpins. Responding to the UK Government white paper on internal markets, NFU Scotland said it is of the utmost priority that the UK Internal Market is enabled to operate as it does now.
Scottish food exports to the rest of the UK in 2017 were worth £3.6 billion while drink exports to the rest of the UK in the same year were worth £830 million. For all goods and services, the value to Scotland of the UK Internal Market, as a whole, is four times higher than the value of Scotland’s trade with the EU.
NFU Scotland supports the intention in the Government paper to ensure that the UK Internal Market continues to operate as it does now – with free movement of goods and services produced to the same basic regulatory standards.
However, it is the clear view of NFU Scotland, and the other faming unions of the UK, that the proposals pose a significant threat to the development of Common Frameworks and to devolution. The Union stresses the need for agricultural support policies to diverge where necessary to reflect different needs and objectives in different parts of the UK, while regulatory requirements converge to protect the integrity of the UK Internal Market.
In its response, the Union is clear that Common Frameworks would provide the most effective alternative to manage policy divergence between parts of the UK, whilst respecting devolution, and so enable the UK Internal Market to operate without friction or distortion.
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said
The proposal on ‘mutual recognition’ contained in the paper raises the potential for Common Frameworks to be rendered meaningless.
Since 2017, the Common Frameworks process has intended to specifically manage policy differences between all parts of the UK based on agreement and founded on respect for devolution.
Common Frameworks can manage the practical regulatory and market implications of the UK leaving the EU and is the specific tool that was jointly designed by the UK Government and devolved administrations.
However, the UK Internal Market proposals put forward limit the devolved administrations’ ability to act if any standards were lowered and give the UK Government a final say in areas of devolved policy, such as agriculture, the environment or animal health and welfare.
As it stands, the UK Government proposals for legislation on a UK Internal Market undermine the Common Frameworks process both in principle, as they move from agreement to imposition, and in practice by removing the incentive for the UK Government and the devolved administrations to agree ways of aligning and managing differences when mutual recognition rules require acceptance of standards from other parts of the UK.