Trade Negotiations (Food and Animal Welfare Standards)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding food and animal welfare standards in non European Union trade deals since the rural secretary’s letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 20 February. (S5O-04246)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has consistently raised the importance of Scotland’s globally recognised food and animal welfare standards not being sacrificed in order to secure trade deals. In recent days, officials have engaged in technical discussions with their UK Government counterparts to reiterate those concerns. As yet, the UK Government has not provided any reliable assurances that the likes of hormone-treated beef, among other products, will not be granted access to the UK market.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

Does the minister also have concerns about the potential impact of the UK Government’s proposed tariff regimes on Scotland’s food and drink sector, including the very valuable exports from my constituency, which are sent worldwide?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I absolutely share those concerns. The Scottish Government and Scottish food and drink businesses have deep concerns about the potential impact of the tariff regime that has been proposed in the UK Government’s rushed consultation. We have been clear that unilateral reduction or removal of tariffs reduces the UK’s negotiating capital and exposes Scottish producers to increased competition from imports that are produced using lower and cheaper production standards.

There is a very real risk that Scottish farmers and food producers are going to face the worst of both worlds in the situation that we are facing, as there will be higher barriers and the high cost of trade with the EU as well as competition against imported food that has been produced to lower standards.

As I hinted at, the UK Government has, as yet, offered no guarantees that those things will not happen. We appear to be getting told to simply check the labels on our food. Our position is simple: we should not be letting inferior products into the country in the first place.