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Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing warns of exit from single market

Fergus Ewing
Fergus Ewing

Almost a week after the Prime Minister outlined her plan to leave the single market, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing finally responded by saying such a move would be disastrous for Scottish farming.

Using the approaching Burns Night as a peg for his remarks, Mr Ewing referred in particular to the potential impact on the potato industry.

“The value of Scotland’s potato sector is £167million, and we currently export Scottish potatoes to EU markets, tariff free, whilst relying on free movement of people for all stages of production and retail, including growing, harvesting, storing, transporting and selling,” he said.

He said a hard Brexit could mean tariffs of up to 50% and loss of subsidy support.

“It may also put at risk Scottish protected food names which give confidence to consumers, and the common regulatory frameworks which help maintain food safety, animal and plant health standards and guarantee access to EU markets and many other countries.”

He went on to argue that Scottish farmers should be given protected access to markets.

“The EU is Scotland’s biggest overseas regional food and drink export market, with exports of food and drink worth £2 billion in 2015.

“We simply can’t ignore the disastrous impact that leaving the single market, and the 500 million people within it, could have on our food and drink sector,” he said.

He said the greatest impact could be on the labour market.

“In 2014, almost 40% of people employed in the UK food and drink manufacturing sector were foreign-born, with the majority of these from within the EU,” he said.

“I would encourage anyone enjoying a Burns supper this year to reflect on the role EU membership plays in enriching our culture and communities, supporting our economy and in the production of much of Scotland’s food and drink.”

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