New business secretary Jonathan Reynolds' attitude to the EU has delighted Salmon Scotland chief Tavish Scott, inset.

Salmon farmers encouraged by minister's more pragmatic approach to EU 

New UK business secretary Reynolds sees potential to remove barriers on food exports


Scotland’s salmon farmers have welcomed a commitment by the new UK business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, to grow exports of products such as whisky and salmon by improving relations with the European Union.

Reynolds, appointed by Prime Minister Keir Starmer after Labour’s sweeping General Election victory on Thursday, was speaking to Sky News after Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris told the station that there was “absolutely” a willingness in the EU to have conversations about closer cooperation on some issues, such as veterinary arrangements, “should that be the wish of the British government”.

Presenter Trevor Phillips said Harris’s comments appeared to be a clear opening of the door to renegotiation of at least some aspects of the Brexit trade deal, and asked Reynolds: “Are you going to walk through that door?”

Mutual interests

Reynolds replied: “We were right during the campaign to respect Brexit, to not revisit those constitutional arguments, but when it comes to trade, the issue is really about standards on food. We’ve got the same standards as the European Union. If we can sell more whisky, sell more salmon to a market which is so significant to us, of course we should explore an opportunity like that, and I think moving forward to a relationship to Europe that is not determined by the internal politics of the Conservative Party is very much in the national interest.

Moving forward to a relationship to Europe that is not determined by the internal politics of the Conservative Party is very much in the national interest

Jonathan Reynolds

“So, we’re not going to revisit those constitutional arguments, but of course where it is in the mutual interests of the European Union and the UK to work together, that good faith relationship has got to make sense. I think on things like food and agricultural products agreement where we’ve got the same standards, removing some of those barriers to trade makes sense.”

A clear signal

Tavish Scott, chief executive of trade body Salmon Scotland, said: “As the UK’s largest food export, there is huge potential to grow Scotland’s economy by resetting the relationship with the EU and focusing on exports of world-renowned produce like Scottish salmon.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Jonathan Reynolds has immediately recognised how important this is, sending a clear signal that the new government is committed to our sector and the growth of Scottish salmon.

“We look forward to working with the new government to promote Scotland on the global stage.”

In a list of demands to politicians published before the election, Salmon Scotland called for a “serious, pragmatic approach to the UK’s relationship with the EU, with a clear focus on the nation’s export businesses which depend on a positive, professional relationship with France and the other countries of the EU”.

From left: Ben Hadfield, chief operations officer of Scotland's biggest salmon farmer, Mowi; Scottish Labour leader Anas Sawar; and Torcuil Crichton, who is now MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, on a recent visit to a Mowi salmon farm.

In social media post, Salmon Scotland said it has had excellent engagement with Prime Minister Keir Starmer, new Scottish Secretary Ian Murray, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, new Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) MP Torcuil Crichton and other newly elected and returning MPs in recent months.

“The Labour party supports the Scottish aquaculture sector and has manifesto commitments to use the levers of government to promote Scottish salmon internationally as part of ‘Brand Scotland’,” said Salmon Scotland communications head Andrew Watson.

“We’ve also heard support from Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie for Salmon Scotland’s call for a more flexible immigration strategy that addresses the skills shortages holding back the Highlands and islands.”