Boris Johnson: “Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we’ll deliver lower prices and more choice for shoppers”

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British PM signals start of US-UK trade deal talks. However, leaks from Whitehall suggested that fish production isn’t important to UK. 

The UK Government has published its negotiating objectives for a free trade agreement with the United States, with talks expected to begin this month.

In the next week, negotiators lead by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will outline what they want or rather don’t want in a US-UK trade deal following Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The prime minister said that he was going to “drive a hard bargain to boost British industry” adding that “trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers. Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations.”

But the announcement followed a leak of Whitehall emails to The Mail on Sunday that one of the government’s most senior officials argued that the UK’s food and fish production sector is not ‘critically important’ to the economy.

Economic adviser to the Chancellor Dr Tim Leunig said that the UK could follow the example of Singapore and import all its food “which is rich without having its own agricultural sector.”

While not specifically mentioning Scottish salmon, Leunig wrote: ‘Food sector isn’t critically important to the UK, and ag[riculture] and fish production certainly isn’t.”

A Government spokesperson has since said Leunig was not speaking in his Treasury role: “We have made clear the comments are not in line with Government policy.”

The SSPO did not want to comment on the MOS story, but SSPO Director of Strategic Engagement Hamish Macdonell said that it believed that the current administration would be taking Scottish salmon seriously in the talks ahead.

“We have regular meetings with UK Government ministers and we know they are taking our sector seriously, not only because salmon is the UK’s biggest food export but because it is the UK shopper’s fish of choice too. The farmed salmon sector is keen to ensure there are no extra barriers in the way of trade with the EU after the end of the Brexit transition period and we are making sure the Westminster government takes our concerns into account as it starts negotiations on a future trade deal.”