Salmon producers fear ‘trade war’ escalation

Scotland’s salmon producers have expressed their concerns that the UK Government appears to be heading for a trade war with the European Union.

Trade body Salmon Scotland has today written to the Prime Minister following a House of Commons statement from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. She had outlined plans to introduce new legislation to amend, unilaterally, the Northern Ireland protocol which was agreed with the EU as part of the Brexit deal.

The protocol involves checks on goods being brought into Northern Ireland from mainland Britain as the price for keeping an open border with the Republic of Ireland, but it has proved to be unpopular, especially with Unionists.

Truss said the “grave situation” in Northern Ireland – where the Democratic Unionist Party has suspended power-sharing arrangements over the issue – made it necessary to act alone if changes cannot be agreed with the EU.

The EU, however, said it would “respond with all measures at its disposal” if the legislation went ahead.

Salmon Scotland said it fears the UK Government’s course of action could “undo” the hard work of the sector to drive up exports to the EU in recent months, which has brought in hundreds of millions of pounds for the UK economy and supported thousands of jobs in rural Scotland.

Chief Executive Tavish Scott wrote in his letter to Boris Johnson: “Any deterioration in relationships between London and Brussels which leads to friction at the border, delays and queues for hauliers crossing to France or extra costs for our exporters could put us back to where we were at the start of last year when exports were in chaos”.

He appealed to the Prime Minister “…to step back from any sort of confrontation with the EU on trade.”

Scott added: “That would cause problems at any time but, when the country is facing a cost-of-living crisis, when inflation is rising rapidly and when the war in Ukraine is putting considerable strain on the availability of key food stuffs, such a dispute could be very damaging.”

Tavish Scott has also held talks with Defra, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this week.

Meanwhile Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive of Seafood Scotland, commented: “Any action that has the potential to upset the still precarious trade movements between the UK and the EU will be most unwelcome for Scotland’s seafood sector and on behalf of the fishing communities, processors, fishing families and the hundreds of other people who depend on the seafood trade for a living, we urge the UK Government to proceed with caution and to keep talking, in the hope of finding an amicable solution to the challenges arising from the Protocol.

“The EU’s rhetoric of ‘consequences’ is ominous, and there is so much to be lost in the trade off.  From impact on costs, duty, ease of movement to tying our exporters up in even more red tape, this latest news will be a blow to Scottish companies who have been working around the clock to get back on track, maintaining sales and securing jobs in coastal communities throughout Scotland. The system for moving goods to the EU is far from perfect, but we have reached a point where movement is at least possible.  A step back to the hold ups that hit us immediately after Brexit will cost Scotland dearly, once again.”

This story updated 9:05am, 18 May

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