PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and PGO (Protected Geographical Indication) give British food such as Scottish farmed salmon, legal protection against imitation.
While Scottish farmed salmon, Scottish wild salmon, as well as Forman and Sons London Cure smokehouse currently enjoy PGI status – its the mutual recognition of a new UK scheme which may be problematic.
Around a quarter of all exports are PGI – mostly boosted by whisky and salmon. But fish smokers and salmon farmers are urging the UK government to prioritise the mutual recognition of new intellectual property rights after the UK leaves the European Union, currently set in October (though apt to change).
In the European Union, there are several means by which such an indication can be protected: designations of origin (PDOs), geographical indications (PGIs) They are a form of intellectual property that is used to identify a food or drink product as originating in a specific geographical location, such as a country, region or local area, and they can’t be made anywhere else. Scottish salmon raised organically off the western coast of mainland Scotland, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Isles, currently enjoy a PGI status.
The issue is that after the UK leaves all existing UK products registered under EU GI schemes will automatically get UK GI status and will remain protected in the UK. But those protections in the EU are still unclear.
The UK government is confident everything will sort itself out. “The UK government anticipates that the EU GI schemes will continue to protect all current UK GIs after the UK leaves the EU in a deal or no deal scenario. But, if the UK leaves with no deal, it’s possible that the EU may not continue to protect UK GI products,” wrote authorities on the Gov.uk site.
“What may happen is that the UK may register as a third country,” said Chairman of The Protected Food Names Association Matthew O’Callaghan. Columbia has a PGI recognition with the EU for coffee, for example. “The UK will set up its own food protection scheme but it won’t protect UK goods in the EU,” he said. “The question is what happens in the EU.”
O’Callaghan explained that since 2016, they successfully lobbied for a new UK scheme – though it was originally suggested to producers that they take out a costly Certified Trade Mark for each product. A new law came into force at the beginning of the year that was passed specifically on enforcing Protected Food Names under The Quality Schemes (Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs) Regulations 2018.
However, with a no-deal looming – this will potentially the most damaging Brexit scenario yet – as this could remove any existing EU-wide protection explained O’Callaghan. Furthermore, a UK/Brexit trade deal with the US – which is historically hostile of food scheme (GIs), could see US products such as American stilton or London salmon hit the UK market – without any real repercussions. “If there’s no scheme, that expertise goes out of the window,” he said.
Talking to the Scotsman in June 2018, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s internal market committee Catherine Stihler said: “The USA is lobbying hard against the scheme, and that could be the price for a post-Brexit UK/USA trade deal. There’s also no guarantee that other non-EU countries will automatically recognise the existing arrangement, as the concept is still quite rare on the world stage. It’s simply disgraceful that Scottish businesses are being put at risk.”