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Farming: 'DEFRA has effectively been asleep at the wheel for months'

By David Porter

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MP Richard Thomson
MP Richard Thomson

Gordon MP Richard Thomson has welcomed confirmation from DEFRA that exports of seed potatoes from Scotland to Northern Ireland can restart from September 30 but has reacted with disbelief that the UK Government hasn’t raised the issue of exports to the EU since March.

The SNP MP had written to DEFRA Minister Lord Benyon continuing to press for progress on the issue and received a response which stated:

“We continue to raise this issue [lifting of the ban on seed potato exports to the EU] in our engagements with EU officials, most recently at the Partnership Council in March.”

Commenting, Richard Thomson MP said: “Having a date for the resumption of seed potato exports to Northern Ireland is undoubtedly welcome and provides certainty where previously there was none.

“However, the admission from DEFRA that the issue of lifting the ban on exports to the EU has not been discussed for nearly six months is absolutely astounding.

"I worry that it provides an indication of the importance – or lack of – that the UK Government attaches to restoring Scottish seed potatoes – renowned the world over for their high quality – to their rightful export markets.

“It is simply unacceptable that producers in my constituency and across Scotland have had to endure the disruption of not even being able to get seed potatoes into another part of the UK, such was the incompetence of this UK Conservative and Unionist government in its delivery of Brexit, something it should not be forgotten that neither Scotland nor Northern Ireland voted for in the first place.

"Now we find DEFRA has effectively been asleep at the wheel for months when it should have been driving the negotiations to get our markets back.”

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