Scottish minister calls for removal of link between seafood trade and access to waters

Published on
December 11, 2018

Scotland Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the U.K. government raising serious concerns about the current Brexit Withdrawal Agreement’s failure to ensure tariff-free access to European markets for Scotland’s seafood exports.

Ewing warned Environment Secretary Michael Gove that non-tariff barriers like customs delays at ports could be catastrophic for an industry that relies on frictionless passage across borders, particularly for fresh and live products.

Ewing wrote that despite the Prime Minister Theresa May’s claims, a direct link between seafood trade and access to waters has been conceded, allowing for exclusion of fisheries and aquaculture from tariff-free access through a temporary customs union, if a fisheries agreement acceptable to the European Union cannot be achieved. 

“Worse still, aquaculture has been included in this linkage despite having no connection to access to waters or quota," Ewing wrote. “Salmon farming alone was the [United Kingdom’s] largest food export in 2017. Its inclusion is profoundly disturbing, risking the imposition of tariffs, which will inevitably increase the cost of exports, and perhaps even more importantly the spectre of non-tariff barriers hangs over Scottish seafood exports, which absolutely rely on frictionless passage across borders.”

Ewing said that in addition to tariffs, in relation to the farmed salmon industry, it is estimated that an extra 45,000 export health certificates will need to be issued per annum, which would be “at significant cost” to businesses and public authorities.

“At a time when we should be actively encouraging investment in Scotland’s economy, the U.K. government has elected to go down a path that only sows the seeds of doubt and confusion. The Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to set one vital Scottish sector against another, and shows a complete disregard for these key Scottish interests," he said.

“That this deal should have been brokered without any form of meaningful engagement with the Scottish government can only lead to the conclusion that, in the Prime Minister and U.K. government’s eyes, Scottish seafood interests are expendable,” he said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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