Scotland’s Constitution Secretary has said trade problems in the wake of the Brexit deal are “far more than teething troubles”, as he urged the UK Government to take a more co-operative approach with the EU.
Mike Russell said the latest figures on trade with EU countries showed the “clear impact” of the post-Brexit arrangements.
He has written to Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost saying the devolved administrations need more input into the governance of the new trading regime.
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “full of optimism” about the new relationship between the UK and EU.
In his letter to Lord Frost, Russell said: “The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has now been in place for over 70 days and Scottish businesses and exporters are suffering the detrimental effects of new barriers to trade that are a direct consequence of the UK leaving the European single market and customs union and operating instead under the TCA.
“The increased costs for businesses and consumers, the increased bureaucracy, the significant delays and the problematic curbs to mobility and trade in services are far more than ‘teething troubles’.”
He continued: “I also note that the latest trade data published by the Office for National Statistics this week shows overall UK trade with the EU reduced by more than a third (38%) in the first month of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
“Some sectors experienced even larger impacts, with the food and live animals sector dropping by more than half at 54%.
“This is further clear evidence of the negative impacts on key areas of the economy.”
Russell also said he was concerned about the “increasingly strained tone and tenor of the UK Government’s relationship with the EU”.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We know that some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship with the EU. That’s why we’re operating export helplines, running webinars with trade experts and have set up a £20 million SME Brexit support fund to help businesses across the UK adapt.
“On the UK side, we are taking a pragmatic approach. We have listened to businesses and have introduced a new timetable for full border controls, giving them further time to prepare for changes and recover from the pandemic.
“We’ve been clear that we want to build a friendly relationship with the EU as sovereign equals and that is what we are working towards.”