Top chefs in Europe appreciate Scottish salmon, and the SSPO wants to make sure Scotland maintains the same access to the market that it currently enjoys. Photo: SSPO

Salmon farming committed to free trade with EU

With exactly one year to go until the United Kingdom is due to exit the European Union, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation has stated that it remains steadfastly committed to, and supportive of, both a transition period upon exit and, over the longer term, a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

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In a statement, the SSPO, whic represents all but one of Scotland’s salmon farmers, said: “In October 2017, we published a ‘position paper’ on securing the best outcome for the industry from Brexit and whilst some issues have become more nuanced since then, our key priorities have not really changed.”

The SSPO said it still wants to see continued progress and further detail on:

  • Customs arrangements
  • Legal and regulatory certainty
  • Workforce and communities
  • International trade policies

It said it was cautiously optimistic that a mutually beenficial agreement can be reached: “Positive statements have come from both sides since it was agreed that ‘sufficient progress’ on the main separation issues had been made in December 2017 to allow formal discussions on the future relationship between the UK and EU to take place.

“The increased likelihood of a time-limited transition period is very welcome (although we still need comfort that this will become legally-binding) and can also be taken as a sign that progress is being made towards a final free trade agreement aimed at minimising cross-border friction between the UK and EU27 (member states) in future.

“Perhaps understandably, detail on the intended parameters and nature of this future relationship has been ‘drip-fed’ into the public arena over the past few months. It is clear from the information available that whilst there is continuous dialogue and negotiation, and a broad eagerness to reach agreement by both parties, they are still some way off reaching consensus and a formalised agreement.”

Ignore the media ‘noise’

The SSPO said criticism of each side’s position was to be expected, adding: “Accusations of ‘UK cherry-picking’ versus ‘EU intransigence’ are fodder for political commentators but we firmly believe that it’s best to ignore the media ‘noise’ and focus on the practical steps being taken by both sides, the areas of genuine common interest, and on the bigger picture.

“The bigger picture for us is continued sustainable growth both at home and abroad. The current success of our industry in global markets is not guaranteed in to the future and every effort must be made to facilitate quick, low-cost, frictionless access to export markets to ensure the success continues. Again, that is why we support a comprehensive free trade agreement which avoids tariffs and limits non-tariff barriers between the UK and EU. Continued access to countries with existing free or preferential trade agreements with the EU for UK exporters, on a similar basis to that currently enjoyed, is an additional key priority.

Highly perishable product

“Ours is a highly perishable product which requires quick delivery from harvest station to dinner plate; if this process is hampered in any way, we run the risk of falling out of favour with our export markets, which would be a disaster for our industry; an industry that is vital to Scotland’s rural economy. This message needs to be heard loud and clear by the Brexit power brokers.

“Looking ahead, we wish to be part of moves to open up trade with the rest of the world via new bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral free trade agreements. Some of the countries mooted as priority markets for the Department for International Trade are already key export markets for our industry. A policy of rules-based, expanded international free trade has our support and we stand ready to advise the Government of our issues, priorities and aspirations as it progresses towards these trade talks.

Winners and losers

“Unless events take a dramatic turn, the UK will have left the EU by this time next year. It will come around in the blink of an eye. Businesses in both jurisdictions will have to adapt to the change – preparations for this should surely be under way across all major economic sectors by now - and there are likely to be winners and losers. To ensure we ‘win’ as an industry, we need the terms of exit and the future trading relationship to be mutually advantageous or at least not significantly detrimental to either side. This is crucial and certainly the focus for the next year at least, but it’s far from the only consideration.

“With far faster global economic growth outside the EU than inside it, we need to be ready to take advantage of and influence any and all future moves to expand into new and exciting markets beyond Europe.”

The SSPO’s overall position is covered in more detail in the position paper, available here: