Scottish Government must have role in future trade negotiations, committee says

The Scottish Government should have a seat at the negotiating table in Brexit trade negotiations to protect the distinct priorities of Scottish trade, according to a House of Commons committee.

A report by the Scottish Affairs Committee called for devolved administrations to be closely involved in each stage of negotiating UK trade deals to ensure that trade agreements work for the whole of the UK.

It called on the UK Government to commit to including representatives from the devolved administrations in the UK negotiating team for future trade agreements, with the understanding that devolved ministers will not deviate from the UK Government negotiating position.

The committee also urged Westminster to ensure that sectors of vital importance to the Scottish economy such as the food, drink and fisheries sectors are not traded away to secure preferential agreements for other industries.

It also said that ensuring Scottish producers enjoy the protection of Geographical Indicators (GI) status, which protects products such as Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and Stornoway Black Pudding against illegal imitation, must be a “red line” for the UK in all its future trade negotiations.

Pete Wishart MP, chairman of the committee, said: “The Government has the immense task of setting a precedent for all future international trade talks post-Brexit.

“My committee heard evidence that Scotland needs a place at the negotiating table if UK trade deals are to stand a chance of benefiting the whole of the UK.”

He added: “Scotland’s food and drink and services sectors have benefited enormously from the single market, and the same benefits must be secured for the future.

“These industries cannot be allowed to become an afterthought in tense trade talks.

“The opportunities from boosting Scottish exports should be front and centre of UK trade policy and strategy.”

The report was published following an in-depth inquiry with evidence sessions hearing from academics, international trade experts, Scottish businesses, and UK and Scottish Government ministers.

In 2017, total exports from Scotland (excluding oil and gas) were estimated to have been worth £81.4 billion to the Scottish economy, of which £32.4 billion were international.

The EU was Scotland’s largest international export region accounting for 46% of all international exports, followed by North America at 17%.

The report argues that sectors of vital importance to the Scottish economy such as food, drink and fisheries have benefited immensely from membership of the EU Single Market and recommends that the UK Government consult with business before any decisions to diverge from EU trading standards are made.

It also urged Westminster to ensure that no new barriers to trade are created between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The committee also recommended that the UK Government explore the option of establishing an international trade sub-committee at the Joint Ministerial Council to ensure devolved administrations have a role in setting UK trade mandates.

A UK Government spokesman said: “While trade remains a reserved matter, the UK Government is committed to working closely with all the devolved administrations to deliver a future trade policy that works for the whole of the UK.”