The UK government ignored warnings about the damage Brexit would cause to Scotland’s food and farming sectors, despite being ‘clearly aware of the consequences’, a Scottish minister has said.
This follows the revelation that Tory leadership candidate and former international trade secretary Liz Truss received detailed warnings from her own officials in 2020 that post-Brexit trade pacts with Australia and New Zealand would have a negative impact on the UK’s agricultural and food sectors.
Data obtained through a freedom of information request filed by former shadow commerce secretary Emily Thornberry and published in Policy this week showed Truss was told the Australian and New Zealand deals would trigger major employment ships away from the semi-processed food sector, while also reducing its value to the UK economy. Truss was also warned that both deals would hurt agriculture, forestry and fisheries economically.
Speaking to The National, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “Brexit has inflicted significant and lasting damage to Scotland’s world-class food and drink industries, as well as rural communities and agricultural.
“I and other Scottish Ministers have repeatedly warned of the adverse consequences for Scottish farmers and smallholder farmers since the UK Government’s own scoping assessment showed that the agri-food and semi-processed food sectors Scotland were losers as a result of proposed FTAs with Australia and New Zealand It is bitterly disappointing that the UK government has not heeded these warnings – despite clearly being aware of the consequences.
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Gougeon added: “Trade deals like the FTA with New Zealand and Australia fall far short of offsetting the economic losses Scotland and the rest of the UK are suffering as a result of Brexit. Analysis of the impact of the deal signed with New Zealand suggests an increase in UK GDP of just 0.03% over the next 15 years, while suggesting that the agriculture and food sectors semi -processed across the UK will lose out as a result of this deal.
“In the meantime, the door has been opened to a significant increase in beef and sheepmeat imports from New Zealand following last year’s agreement with Australia, which has already raised serious concerns in the agri-food sector in Scotland and the rest of the country. UK.”
Further criticism came from the National Farmers Union of Scotland, whose director of policy, Jonnie Hall, told the National: ‘The government’s record on free trade deals to date largely concerns agreements with the main agricultural and manufacturing economies in relation to the United Kingdom which seek tertiary and service services”. or digital trade in return, which means that our agricultural interests and access to our food and beverage sector have been cheap bargaining chips to secure what is seen as more lucrative market access for other sectors. There has been little or nothing in such trade deals for Scottish food or agriculture.
“What is becoming increasingly clear is the cumulative impact that all FTAs concluded are likely to have. With Australia and New Zealand completed, India and Canada under discussion among others, domestic producers are increasingly exposed to being undermined by increasing volumes of products derived from very different farming systems that work with very different cost structures.