Fergus Ewing, left, has told Michael Gove the government must 'steer away from the disastrous course it is currently set on'.

Ewing adds weight to SSPO call to avoid No-Deal Brexit

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has called on the UK Government to remove the threat of a No Deal Brexit immediately to avoid “potential disaster” for aquaculture, food and drink, and farming.  

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Ewing delivered his demand to UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove at a meeting between the UK’s devolved administrations and the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) today.

His call comes hard on the heels of the weekend’s open letter from the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) and other food producers, which implored politicians of all parties to unite to prevent a “catastrophic” No Deal Brexit.

‘Chaos across our rural economy’

Ewing said: “Let’s be clear that it is well within the gift of the UK Government to steer away from the disastrous course it is currently set on - the consequences of which would be catastrophic for businesses across Scotland.    

“At the recent Oxford farming conference, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admitted publicly that a no-deal scenario would cause chaos across our rural economy – particularly for smaller farmers and food businesses - and lead to effective tariffs of at least 40% on the exportation of beef and sheep meat.  

“Unsurprisingly, the Secretary of State is now receiving a healthy stream of letters from concerned industry representatives, with the likes of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), Scotland Food and Drink (SFD), and the Confederation of Forest Industries the latest to express their concerns.

“They aren’t concerned with abstract hypotheticals, but with real issues that are certain to come to pass in the event of a no deal Brexit, like the removal of vital European Union funding for the forestry sector, or the introduction of tariffs and delays for our food and drink industry – which could prove to be particularly disastrous for fish processors unable to get their product to market before it spoils. 

“The underlying message in all that correspondence is that a no-deal Brexit must be avoided at all costs. To do otherwise could set back our rural economy by years – maybe even decades; an act of economic self-harm that could potentially wipe out jobs, industries, and even some of our more vulnerable communities, who are heavily reliant on tariff-free trade for their prosperity.

“To continue down this route, whilst other options exist, and despite being fully aware of the potential repercussions of such a decision, is as reckless as it is irresponsible.     

“I’m in London to ask the Secretary of State to stop this immediately, and provide vital reassurance to Scotland’s rural economy, in what is already a very tumultuous time for industry.”