Charlie Adam, Vice-President of the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) and James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink, urged the UK Government to act now to protect Scottish and UK firms, in response to questions from Kenneth Gibson MSP at the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee.
Mr Adam expressed concern at the UK Government’s lack of action in imposing reciprocal arrangements on imports, while Scottish producers face new Brexit barriers when trying to export to Europe, placing them at a competitive disadvantage. He said:
“We are often told that these are just teething problems, or that the situation has been caused by COVID or whatever else, and that everything will be sorted out by 21 April.
“Our purpose in being here is to point out that that will be far too late; that the situation is not down to teething problems and that there seems to be a lack of urgency from DEFRA and the UK Government on the matter.
“I suspect that the reason behind it is a desire to show Brexit as a positive thing and to suggest that it is all fine, when in fact, as James Withers has made very clear, it is not.”
With regard to reports that the Brexit-induced disruptions are already costing Scottish companies European customers, Mr Withers said:
“That is already happening. We know of seafood buyers going to Denmark and Norway instead of Scotland. We know of red meat buyers who are going to Spain and Ireland instead of coming to Scotland.
“So much of exporting is about the exporter’s confidence that their product will get to market on time and that they will get paid; and the importer’s confidence that they will get that product when they need it to satisfy their customers.
“That confidence has been shattered in the past five weeks, and that impacts on Britain’s reputation as a reliable place to do business. My great fear is that that takes a heck of a lot longer to fix than IT systems do, which is why it is so urgent that we sort out the situation as soon as possible.”
Current difficulties are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.