The trade body for the UK’s biggest fresh food export fears the changes to the Northern Ireland protocol 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”.
Mr Scott has also held talks with Defra this week.
Scottish salmon sales to the EU were worth £372 million in 2021 – accounting for 61 percent of global Scottish salmon exports. The sector directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and supports more than 3,600 suppliers, with 10,000 jobs dependent on farm-raised salmon.
The full letter from Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, to the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister,
The last 18 months have been tough for UK exporters with fresh border checks, extra paperwork and confusion all adding to costs and delays. We, in the Scottish salmon sector, know that only too well given that more salmon is exported from the UK than any other fresh food product.
But we are now navigating the rough waters of Brexit more successfully. Through considerable effort and a willingness to adapt, we have eased the burdens down to a manageable level. Indeed, our producers are now exporting more to the EU than ever before.
What will undo all this hard work, however, is a trade war with Europe. 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.
That is why I, on behalf of our exporters and the 12,000 people who rely on Scottish salmon for their livelihoods, am appealing to you and your government to step back from any sort of confrontation with the EU on trade.
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.
The Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, announced moves on 17 May which could very well place considerable strain on the relationship between the UK and the EU. We urge you - and all in your government - to keep talking to Europe and to find ways of securing an amicable and consensual agreement to this dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol. If that does not happen, the impact on UK exporters could be considerable.
Our members have been working closely with officials in Defra on the full digitisation of the certification scheme for exports to the EU. We believe this will make a significant difference and make it easier for exporters to get their goods to the continent. I would urge you to throw your efforts behind that process. The economy will get a far bigger boost from moves like that, which ease the burden on exporters, rather than rows with Europe which are only likely to make the situation worse.
Scottish salmon is the standard bearer for UK food exports to the EU. We are immensely proud to be in that position but we are equally aware of how fragile the exporting process can be if there are disputes at a government level.
That is why we are urging you not to do anything that puts the UK on a collision course with Europe. That really is the last thing our exporters need at this time.