Potential disaster for Scotland’s seafood industry

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to DEFRA to highlight the potential impacts to Scotland’s salmon and other seafood products, unless issues surrounding export health certificates are resolved immediately.

Letter from Mr Ewing to Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

Dear Michael

I am writing to express concern that the practical consequences of a no-deal Brexit become more stark by the day. Last September, at the Ministerial Forum (EU Negotiations) discussion on the future relationship with the EU on agri-food I raised the issue of export certification for salmon and other seafood products, where the practical requirements of certification together with the need for border inspection posts would be resource intensive. I raised the issue with you again in the DEFRA/Devolved Administrations Ministerial meeting on 14 January. In the context of no-deal Brexit, these issues are even more stark, and would be hugely damaging for our most valuable food export.

The clock must be stopped on the Article 50 process as this is the only way to avoid any possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU on 29 March without a deal. Failure to do so, in knowledge of the catastrophic consequences, would be unpardonably reckless.

Our work on contingency planning has identified that the number of export health certificates required by the salmon industry could quadruple from around 50,000 per annum to 200,000. This would cost around £15m extra each year – even if the EU’s more stringent requirements for certificates are disregarded. Industry will see no benefit from this additional paperwork. At the same time, imports of similar products to the UK from the EU will not be subject to these requirements, creating an asymmetry that is only to the detriment of our own industry. As a minimum, we would expect the UK Government to be exploring with the European Commission urgently whether a temporary derogation from export health certification requirements could be possible.

The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and Scotland’s public finances should not bear the costs of EU exit. I therefore seek your commitment that the UK Government will reimburse these costs, whether borne by the public sector or by industry.

Can this be done?

Fergus Ewing