Brexit: beyond January 31 and the ‘real grit’

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NFU Scotland is looking beyond the projected EU exit date of January 31 and to what will come next in terms of the UK’s future relationship with the European Union and international trade partners.

The Withdrawal Agreement, which will come into force on January 31, sets in track a transition period for the UK’s exit from the EU, which will come to an end on December 31, 2020 – allowing 11 months for the UK and the EU to negotiate the terms of their future relationship.

It is these negotiations on the future relationship that is the real bread and butter of Brexit for NFU Scotland members because this is where the terms of the trade deal between the UK and the EU will be agreed.

Andrew McCornick, president of NFU Scotland, is reminding members that this will be the first trade deal in history that is seeking to erect barriers rather than remove them and the next 11 months of negotiations will be challenging and complex.

These barriers can be any combination of things including tariffs, quotas on product, or non-tariff barriers such as sanitary and phytosanitary rules and standards.

During this time the UK will also be at liberty to commence trade negotiations with new international partners.

Andrew McCornick said: ‘The last three-and-a-half years have been ones to forget politically but with a new UK Government in place, finally Scottish farmers and crofters are receiving some clarity from government as to what the process of Brexit will be.

‘Leaving the EU on January 31 will not be the hard part, as that it is only then that the real grit of the negotiations begin.

‘The EU are our main and closest market beyond the internal UK market with established trade routes and partnerships and for this reason, NFU Scotland has always campaigned for free and frictionless access to the EU market to remain after Brexit.

‘The scale of the EU will give it strength in the negotiation, and it could seek to hold the UK back by prioritising different issues to satisfy other member states.

‘I want NFU Scotland members to consider now what the priorities should be for our trading future with the EU. Because the terms of our future relationship with the EU will be what dictate subsequent free trade negotiations with the international community: the closer we are to the EU with reciprocal policies, the more restricted our trade position will be with international partners.

‘Conversely, the further we move away from the EU, the more likely we are to lose access to current trade agreements. I remain steadfast in the Union’s position that in our future EU and international trade agreements there must be no double standards of what is expected of Scottish and UK producers and what is tolerated from imports and their production methods and standards.

‘It is not just the economics that is at stake here – there is the triple bottom line of sustainability, social economics and what Scottish farmers and crofters can deliver for the environment including climate change’.