Time-sensitive exports should have priority access if no-deal Brexit: Matheson

The transport secretary is urging the UK Government to ensure that time-sensitive exports such as Scottish seafood can still reach mainland Europe if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Michael Matheson MSP has written to UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to demand that critical exports are given priority access to the additional ferry capacity secured by the UK Government when it is not being used to transport essential supplies.

Mr Matheson voiced concerns that the Department for Transport has failed to take action despite the issue being raised in previous correspondence from the Scottish Government.

He warned that livelihoods are being put at risk by this “lack of support for exporting businesses” and called on the UK Government to address the issue.

Mr Matheson said: “With an annual value of £944 million, seafood accounts for 58% of Scotland’s total food exports.

“Seafood is highly perishable and therefore dependent on the sort of swift and reliable transport connections which would be damaged by a disorderly UK exit from the EU.

“The Scottish Government has, on a number of occasions, sought to have seafood and other time-critical exports prioritised through Kent and Dover.

“We have also asked that these exports are given priority access to the additional ferry capacity secured by the UK Government where this is not required for essential supplies. So far, these requests have been refused.

Michael Matheson
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson MSP said a no-deal Brexit would have serious consequences for exports (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“This lack of support for exporting businesses, which threatens the livelihoods of many in Scotland, especially in our more remote and rural communities, is of great concern to us and to the industries affected.

“The current situation, which puts at risk jobs and livelihoods, is simply not acceptable.”

He is asking the UK Government to look again at the issues of prioritisation, and more generally at what assurance it can give businesses that their critical routes to market will be maintained in the event of a no-deal.

The MSP said the Scottish Government is clear that remaining in the EU is in Scotland’s best interests, but has to plan for all possible outcomes, including a no-deal exit which would have “serious consequences for our exports and wider economy”.

A UK Government spokesman said: “Leaving the European Union with a deal remains our priority but we continue to work with Scottish industry to prepare for all possible outcomes.

“As agreed by ministers across Government, only goods critical to the preservation of human and animal welfare – such as medicines – will be given access to the Government-secured freight capacity.”

Unused capacity will be released for sale on the open market and will be available to all suppliers.

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