Brexit threatens £1bn Scots salmon industry

Julie Hesketh-Laird

Producers of Scottish salmon, the UK’s largest food export, said on Friday they are seeking reassurances that the draft Brexit deal will not link fishing in British waters by European Union boats with the supply of all UK seafood products to EU markets.

The £1 billion Scottish salmon industry is not subject to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy which sets quotas for access for caught white fish at sea.

However, Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), said the draft Brexit deal opens the potential for this to change.

Hesketh-Laird said the proposed Brexit deal raises some serious questions for the farmed salmon sector.

“We have been clear that a negotiated outcome between the UK and the EU is preferable to a ‘no-deal’ scenario,” said Hesketh-Laird.

“Exiting the EU without a deal would almost certainly place fresh barriers in the way of the export of farmed salmon to the continent.

“As a result, the SSPO believes it would be better to have an agreement which continues to allow frictionless trade with the continent than no agreement at all.”

Hesketh-Laird added: “However, the political heads of agreement for future trade talks does raise serious questions.

“By coupling aquaculture with future catch fish quotas, this document raises the prospect of tariffs being imposed on exports of farmed fish if there is no agreement on North Sea white fish quotas.

“It also raises the prospect of border checks for fresh salmon exiting the UK bound for our biggest export market – the EU.

“We accept that this would only happen if the proposed agreement is implemented unamended and if there is no mutually acceptable deal on fisheries being reached.

“But it is included in the text around the ‘backstop’ and, as such, remains a risk. It is a risk the farmed sector is determined to avoid.

“We are clear: there must be no linkage between access for EU vessels to UK waters and the tariff-free supply of seafood products to EU markets.

“The SSPO will continue to study the draft agreement in detail and we look to both the UK and Scottish governments for their own analysis of the impacts of the proposed deal on the UK biggest food export, farmed Scottish salmon.

“In the meantime, we shall continue to push for the continued, tariff-free export of the premium, niche product that is Scottish farmed salmon to the EU after Brexit, with no additional conditions attached.”