Scotland F&D voices relief as tariffs avoided but concerns over more border disruption

Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink has commented on the news of a Brexit deal being reached.

James Withers said, “A deal has emerged ridiculously late in the day and there is a huge amount of detail to assess. However, this will ensure we avoid crippling tariffs of up to 80% on some of our key food exports. That is good news.

“However, before Ministers start popping champagne corks, they need to be alive to the danger of more disruption at our ports in just a few days’ time.

“The tariff threat is averted but we remain hugely concerned at the wave of new export checks about to be introduced. For months now we have been warning the UK Government of disruption and a lack of readiness. We have lost a transition period to a pandemic and it is only with a week to go that we now know what we are transitioning to.

“We would urge the UK Government to now seek a grace period on the introduction of new export checks on 1 January. The UK is already planning to waive checks on most imports from the EU and on some products moving between Northern Ireland and the GB mainland. We desperately need the same for our exports to the continent. Otherwise I fear the scenes we have witnessed of horrendous border disruption over recent days could be repeated, especially with new Covid testing now also required.

“Businesses cannot afford more disruption after a nightmare year and a Christmas export trade that has been ruined for many. If they face more losses through no fault of their own, UK Government will have to be ready with financial aid.

“With four working days until the end of the year, there are around 2000 pages of detail to analyse. There is already grim news emerging for seed potato exports to Europe, important to Scotland’s farmers. They now look blocked from 1 January. The phrase ‘free trade’ certainly won’t apply to them.”