Politics

SNP minister Mairi Gougeon warns Brexit hasn’t provided ‘a single benefit for rural communities’

AN SNP minister has insisted Brexit has “failed to deliver a single benefit for Scotland’s rural communities” as she calls on UK leaders to urgently tackle issues facing the food and drink sector.

Two years on from the UK leaving the EU, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon is set to raise labour skills shortages, red tape and barriers to trade at a meeting with other UK environment ministers at a meeting today.

Figures show that the total food and drink exports to the EU in 2019 were worth around £2.6 billion to Scotland but in the first nine months of 2021, Scotland’s food and drink exports to the EU were 12.1 per cent lower than the equivalent period in 2019.

The full impact of the pandemic has not yet been investigated.

The Rural Affairs Secretary is calling on the UK Government to re-engage with the EU to find solutions to the blockages facing Scottish exporters.

She said: “Two years on, Brexit has failed to deliver a single benefit for Scotland’s rural communities, or the countless food and drink businesses that support them. Fragile rural and island communities are bearing the brunt of a hard Brexit, recklessly pursued while a global pandemic has ravaged our society and our economy.

“Scotland’s food and drink sector has been a global success story, providing highly paid, highly skilled jobs, and businesses, often in remote rural and island communities. But Brexit has caused labour and skills shortages and created barriers to trade that have harmed many businesses and communities in the short term, with research suggesting a significant risk to their success in the longer term too.

“Scottish exporters are also being forced to cope with a mountain of complex, time consuming and costly customs and borders arrangements. Businesses put in huge amounts of preparation for the new Export Health Certificates introduced this year, but they still face uncertainty around the level of certification needed to ensure valuable seafood exports enter the EU without delay.

“The UK Government must listen to the needs of Scottish businesses and re-engage in good faith with the EU to find pragmatic solutions to the problems still facing businesses, before they – and the communities they support – endure further unnecessary pain.”

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