Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Brexit, Alistair Carmichael, has challenged the government on the risk to export businesses from tariffs with the EU. Speaking in the House of Commons Mr Carmichael noted the risk of a knock-on effect from small interlinked businesses being unable to compete due to tariffs if the UK leaves the Single Market without a trade deal.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“For years, the directors of Orkney Creamery have built an export market for a high-quality product, which they have improved, with Government encouragement. Will the Minister explain to them what he means when he says that if we do not get a deal, we will be trading on our own terms, because they tell me that if they have to pay tariffs on their exports, they will not be able to compete? If they go, we lose the market for the milk for the dairy farmers. The dairy farmers will then not need the services of the vets or the agricultural merchants or all the other businesses that rely on them. Will the Minister explain to these people exactly what trading on our own terms means?”
Responding, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove MP said:
“The right hon. Gentleman is an effective advocate for his constituency, not least for the agricultural interests of fellow Orcadians. He is absolutely right; it is a high-quality product and it is always better when we have tariff-free access, not just to the European Union but to other markets. The political declaration requires that the EU should use its best endeavours to get a zero-tariff and zero-quota agreement and that is what we are all working hard to secure.”
Reacting afterwards, Mr Carmichael said:
“Mr Gove swerved my question on the consequence of tariffs on local businesses. He may have avoided giving a straight answer but we may well soon learn the truth of the matter ourselves.
“I fervently hope that the government can secure a good, tariff-free trade deal with the EU. Time is running out, however, and I fear that those at the top do not know or care about the damaging domino effect that we risk should businesses reliant on EU exports be hit by new tariffs. I do not want my community to pay the price for the government’s indifference.”