Scottish minister urges seafood exports have priority access in a no-deal Brexit
The government of the United Kingdom is being urged to ensure that time-critical export products like seafood can still reach mainland Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Scotland Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has written to the U.K. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to demand that critical exports are given priority access to the additional ferry capacity secured by the U.K. government when it is not being used to transport essential supplies.
In his letter, Matheson highlighted the importance of seafood as an export product.
With an annual value of GBP 944 million (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1.1 billion), it accounts for 58 percent of Scotland’s total food exports, he wrote, adding that the products are also highly perishable and are therefore dependent on “swift and reliable transport connections.”
Matheson also voiced concerns that the Department for Transport has failed to take action despite the issue being raised in previous correspondence.
“The Scottish government has, on a number of occasions, sought to have seafood and other time critical exports prioritized through Kent and Dover. We have also asked that these exports are given priority access to the additional ferry capacity secured by the U.K. government where this is not required for essential supplies. So far, these requests have been refused,” Matheson said. “This lack of support for exporting businesses, which threatens the livelihoods of many in Scotland, especially in our more remote and rural communities, is of great concern to us and to the industries affected.”
Matheson reiterated the importance of prioritization of seafood exports, adding that a lack of resolution on the issue could cost jobs.
“The current situation, which puts at risk jobs and livelihoods, is simply not acceptable,” he said. “I am asking the U.K. government to look again at the issues of prioritization, and more generally at what assurance they can give businesses that their critical routes to market will be maintained in the event of a no deal.”
At last month’s Scottish Seafood Summit, Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for the rural economy, said that he had also been urging the U.K. government, and particularly U.K. Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Michael Gove to create a system at ports, particularly at the country’s main port of Dover, which would prioritize seafood lorries and vehicles carrying other perishable goods.
For the time being, Gove and the U.K. government appear to have ruled out any prioritization of goods.