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Minister warns that rural economy is facing a hit from Tory trade agreements

By David Porter

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Pete Wishart MP
Pete Wishart MP

Scotland’s rural economy is set to be severely hit by Free Trade Agreements negotiated between the UK and non-EU trading partners, the SNP has warned.

It comes as research carried out by the Scottish Government found deals being negotiated with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, pose a significant threat to key Scottish agricultural sectors namely cereals (wheat and barley), livestock (dairy, beef and sheep), and potatoes.

This study assesses the impact on Scottish agriculture of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) using two FTA scenarios,

Low Liberalisation (tariff-free trade with a 25 per cent reduction in non-tariff measure (NTM) costs) and High Liberalisation (tariff-free trade with a 50 per cent NTM costs’ reduction).

These scenarios are compared to the Main Baseline whereby the UK has left the EU and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is in place, as are the rollover trade deals that the UK agreed during the Brexit process

Commenting, Pete Wishart MP said: “We warned that Brexit would be bad for Scottish farming and so it is proving. Just as we feared, the Tories are already negotiating trade deals that hit Scottish farmers hard.

“I have lots of sheep farmers in my constituency, but the Tories don’t care about their fortunes.

"This research clearly shows the export market for Scotch lamb and sheep meat is likely to contract – and worse, that more countries will be able to put product on our supermarket shelves.

“Our sheep farmers’ best hope is to regain entry to the EU with access to the single market."

Sheepmeat output is forecast to fall by around 10.5 per cent to 11 per cent under the Low and High Liberalisation scenarios.

Beef and wheat are also projected to fall (both by around 3 per cent to 6 per cent depending on the scenario).

Conversely, liquid milk output is forecast to grow by 3 per cent to 9 per cent in value terms, indicating significant FTA opportunities for dairy products.

Barley is forecast to show a small long-term gain.

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