The announcement by foreign secretary Liz Truss that the government is proposing a new law that would amend the Northern Ireland Protocol has been greeted with concern by Seafood Scotland, which is warning that this has the potential to tip seafood exports to the EU back into chaos.
The Protocol, which paved the way for the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and the EU, governs how goods enter Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
The Democratic Unionist Party has refused to join the power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland until reforms are made to the deal, which it says treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK.
Liz Truss said the proposed law would make limited changes to the Protocol, such as freeing the movement of UK-made goods from ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’.
The EU said it would ‘need to respond with all measures at its disposal’ if the UK went ahead with the legislation, thereby breaking the terms of the TCA.
Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, said: “Any action that has the potential to upset the still precarious trade movements between the UK and the EU will be most unwelcome for Scotland’s seafood sector.
“On behalf of the fishing communities, processors, fishing families and the hundreds of other people who depend on the seafood trade for a living, we urge the UK government to proceed with caution and to keep talking, in the hope of finding an amicable solution to the challenges arising from the Protocol.
“The EU’s rhetoric of ‘consequences’ is ominous, and there is so much to be lost in the trade-off. From impact on costs, duty and ease of movement to tying our exporters up in even more red tape, this latest news will be a blow to Scottish companies who have been working around the clock to get back on track, maintaining sales and securing jobs in coastal communities throughout Scotland.
“The system for moving goods to the EU is far from perfect, but we have reached a point where movement is at least possible. A step back to the hold-ups that hit us immediately after Brexit will cost Scotland dearly, once again.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.