Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, today challenged the government to confirm whether farmers and crofters would maintain their current level of access to the EU in a future trade deal. Speaking during an urgent debate on the fourth round of trade negotiations with the EU, Mr Carmichael highlighted the importance of tariff-free access to EU markets and protected designation of origin (PDO) status under a future trade deal. In her response, the Paymaster General, Penny Mordaunt, did not confirm if full access for farmers would be continued.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“Farmers and crofters in my constituency and across the country require a minimum of two things from these negotiations. They require continued tariff-free access to the European markets, and they require protection for their produce that they get from the PDO regimes. Given the progress of negotiations that she has described, how likely does she think they are likely to get that and what would she suggest that they do if they don’t?”
Responding for the government, Penny Mordaunt MP said:
“We are very aware of the asks of every sector in Scotland. I have been working with all of the devolved administrations to ensure that they are able to feed in and indeed those discussions have materially changed the shape of negotiations and we will continue to do that. They know that I am committed to doing that and I think that many of the things that we are asking for are in everyone’s interest.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Paymaster General had no answer today to the very real concerns of farmers and crofters. We are leaving the EU but the government does not have to sacrifice our agriculture sector along the way.
“The Minister had the opportunity to give reassurance to farmers across the country about tariff-free access to the EU market and she did not take that opportunity. We can only speculate why.
“It was notable to hear Julian Smith voicing concern about companies who had contacted him about moving jobs to the Republic of Ireland. Mr Smith was Northern Ireland Minister until earlier this year and knows better than most the risks our economy faces if we do not secure a good deal that allows stability for our economy. The government needs to listen to cooler heads and think about how we can protect businesses as they recover from the financial harm from coronavirus.”