Scottish salmon farmers could experience a decrease in export value of between 4% to 6% if the UK fails to secure a free trade with the European Union after Brexit.
That’s the findings from a new Scottish Government report.
But the new chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), Julie Hesketh-Laird, reacted to the report with caution.
She said the sector would face up to the challenges of Brexit and maximize opportunities for Scotland’s and the UK’s largest food export – even in the worst-case scenario.
“Salmon farming is and will remain, outside of the quota system. However, in a no-deal scenario, fresh Scottish salmon exported to the EU would attract a small tariff of 2% on Brexit,” she said.
The study, by ABPmer, was commissioned by Marine Scotland to understand possible impacts of Brexit on the seafood sector. It examined four hypothetical scenarios for the UK’s exit from the European Union, including changes to fishing quota shares and the impact of different types of international trade on the industry.
“The modelling of these four different scenarios highlights the complexities of Brexit for our seafood industry and in the absence of full EU membership, maintaining membership of the European Single Market and remaining in a customs union is the ‘worst’ outcome for our fishing, aquaculture and processing sectors,” said Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.
Hesketh-Laird said Scottish salmon already delivers strong export performance in more than 55 countries, but “there is scope for the sector to do more with improved trade arrangements”.
She said: “We continue to press for an orderly withdrawal and a tariff-free comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and EU.
“And we will continue to work with the Scottish and UK Governments to set out the industry’s medium and long-term export aspirations. In the short-term, we continue to press for a deal with the EU which enables us to trade as easily with Europe as we do now. Early agreement on the practicalities of trade between the UK and EU is vital.”
The report points out that the scenarios are not predictions of the future “and serve only to highlight the relative importance of the international drivers for the UK seafood sector – level of fishing opportunity, tariffs and non-tariff measures (NTMs)”.
The authors add: “The analysis does not discuss the relative likelihood of any of the scenarios, which are modelled for analytical purposes only.”
The SSPO published a working paper “aimed at securing the best possible outcome for the Scottish salmon industry” from the UK’s exit negotiations.
It called for a tariff-free comprehensive free trade deal that allows its produce to enter EU markets in much the same way and at the same cost and within the same timeframes as currently.
“Then we could move on to taking the potential opportunities that the situation gives us – new free trade deals with other world markets and ideally, a more efficient customs and exporting process. But we are still some way off achieving this as far as anyone can tell,” said now-retired chief executive, Scott Landsburgh.