SSPO lends voice to Scottish food industry letter to Boris Johnson highlighting perilous “Brexit” situation

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Scotland’s leading food, drink, seafood, and farming organisations take the “unusual step” of writing directly to PM as the end of the Brexit transition period looms.

11 groups, including the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Seafood Scotland, and Scotland Food & Drink have all signed a joint letter to the British PM Boris Johnson. It said that the fallout from a “no deal would be catastrophic and we cannot emphasise strongly enough the need to avoid this outcome”.

The industry leaders said steps needed to be taken quickly to avoid “enormous damage” to already COVID-19 hit businesses.

“As Scotland’s leading food, drink, seafood, and farming organisations, we are taking the unusual step of writing directly to you to highlight the perilous situation facing our sector with less than 60 days until the end of the Brexit transition period,” the leaders said.

New trading rules with the EU will come into place when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

The letter calls for the British government to negotiate a six-month “grace period” from the end of the transition period to allow businesses to adjust to the new rules.

SSPO boss Tavish Scott. PHOTO: SSPO

“Most critically for Scotland is the need for a six-month derogation from the requirement to produce export health certificates and other export certification including haulage permits. To be clear, there is no system available that can cope with the increased demand in EHCs likely to be required from 1 January,” the letter stated.

There were also calls for a package of financial compensation for producers, processors, manufacturers and distributors “who encounter losses as a direct result of border or market disruption, initially for a 3-month period”. The groups also want the government to finalise operational arrangements “for enabling the smooth passage for seafood consignments across the Channel (Operation Brock) and at other ports”.

Operation Brock is the planned traffic management system in Kent, South East England, for use in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“Tariffs, border disruption for high value perishable goods, and certification costs are all far greater threats for the food and drink sector than they are for other sectors in the economy. And our food producers are extremely reliant on labour from the EU, such as the North East where over 70 per-cent of the workforce in seafood processing are EU nationals,” the industry leaders warned.