Scottish food ‘to soar in price in Europe after Brexit’

The CEO of Scotland Food and drink has warned that Scottish food sold in Europe could 'soar in price' after Brexit.

Scottish foods that are sold in Europe could be hit by a 50%-plus price hike following Brexit, it has been claimed.

James Withers, the CEO of the industry body Scotland Food and Drink, spoke about the impact leaving the EU could have on the sector – particularly if the UK fails to agree a trade deal.

The food and drink sector, which is worth £15bn a year to the Scottish economy, has been “haunted” by the “spectre of no-deal Brexit” since the referendum in 2016, Mr Withers said.

He warned if the UK fails to reach an agreement with the remaining 27 EU nations on trade in the coming months then this could linger on.

For the UK’s transition period to be extended beyond the end of 2020, work would need to get under way in the summer – with Mr Withers saying that left the UK with a “little over 20 weeks to frame a trade deal with the EU”.

“In other words, we’re in search of a miracle,” he told the PA news agency.

Mr Withers, speaking ahead of a Brexit breakfast event in Edinburgh hosted by law firm CMS on Tuesday, said: “The spectre of a no-deal Brexit has haunted Scotland’s farming, food and drink industry since 2016.

“It feels like the very thing we feared and have been told has been avoided may now be facing us at the end of the 2020.”

He said even if a deal could be agreed, the UK Government’s “strategic shift” away from alignment with EU regulations has served to “kill off any hope of achieving frictionless trade or anything close to it”.

Mr Withers warned: “Tariffs anywhere close to WTO levels could increase the price of our products in the EU market by more than 50%.”

He added: “Costly new checks and processes – and potentially tariffs on some of our food products – will act as a major new barrier to trade with our biggest single export market.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “As set out in the Political Declaration, the EU jointly agreed with the UK to do everything to conclude an ambitious future partnership by the end of 2020.

“It’s in the interests of both the UK and the EU to agree a future partnership that keeps goods flowing, services being provided and business being done, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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