The announcement that a trade deal between the UK and the EU has been agreed just days before the end of the transition period is a great relief to Scotland’s farmers and crofters and the wider food chain.
Since the EU referendum four-and-a-half years ago, NFU Scotland has been resolute in its belief that a ‘no deal’, and the introduction of swingeing tariffs on key agricultural products would have been a disaster for the sector.
The detail of the deal, contained within a 2000-page document, must be scrutinised and receive parliamentary approval. It does offer a platform for trade with the EU, but it is unlikely to be frictionless. Trade will inevitably involve significant levels of bureaucracy, additional cost and delays, particularly in early January whilst new systems at the borders bed in.
In addition, the decision by the EU to grant third country listing status to the UK yesterday (23 December) and approve exports of meat, dairy and other products of animal origin is seen as crucial. Scottish red meat exports to the EU alone are worth more than £80 million.
However, the trade deal has failed Scotland’s internationally recognised seed potato industry. From the 1 January it will not be possible for Scottish seed potatoes to be exported to the EU.
As an EU Member State, Britain exported around 30,000t of seed potatoes, worth £13.5 million, to mainland Europe each year and the majority of these were high-health stocks grown in Scotland. There is also significant trade with Northern Ireland that is now at risk although great efforts have been made by the seed potato trade to export earlier to beat the 31 December deadline.
Notwithstanding the detail of today’s deal, which NFU Scotland will work through and scrutinise in depth, change is inevitable for all agricultural businesses. NFU Scotland has created a step-by-step Brexit preparedness resource for members to ensure they have made all necessary preparations: https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/brexit.aspx
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said
It is good news and a huge relief that a deal has been done. The delay in getting agreement has meant that farmers and crofters, who had been forced into making big business decision for 2021 in a void, now have a degree of certainty that European markets will be accessible next year for most of their products.
No deal would have been no good to Scottish farming, food and drink and the worst-case scenario of crippling tariffs for some sectors, particularly sheep and cereals, has now been averted.
We will now need to see the detail of what has been agreed and scrutinise it closely.
On the deeply disappointing news about seed potatoes, NFUS has been highlighting this issue over the course of this year with both UK and Scottish Governments. It has been recognised by all as a problem that needs sorted. With a trade deal now announced between the UK and the EU, this must stimulate fresh negotiations to facilitate EU trade and to restore exports of our prized high health seed potatoes.
Whatever the details of the deal, wrapped up in more than 2000 pages, there will be friction. Our new trading arrangement with the EU will not be a continuation of what we have just now. New demands on paperwork and new rules around certification will bring a period of adjustment, the potential for delay and add additional costs.