Following a meeting today chaired with Michael Gove, George Eustice and Northern Isles food producers on the upcoming end to the EU transition period, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael welcomed the opportunity for business leaders to put their concerns directly to ministers. In the meeting Mr Gove and Mr Eustice reiterated that they were making all efforts to secure a trade deal with the EU and that UK food standards would not be reduced.
The ministers also committed to measures to support sheep farmers in the isles in the event of a price crash or a “no deal” scenario and promised to maintain future livestock exports off the isles and into the UK market and beyond.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Carmichael said:
“I am glad that we were able to secure this vital meeting and that isles food producers were able to secure commitments from the ministers on their concerns. The commitments on preserving live exports and support for lamb in the event of market disruption will be particularly crucial for isles producers.
“There are, however, still too many issues on which we need clarity. Exporters of salmon and other perishable goods are understandably concerned about the risks of bottlenecks in transport. Quotas and tariffs on exports to Europe would be enormously harmful as well if we do not secure a deal.
“A point that came up again and again was the importance of farming, crofting and aquaculture to the wider community. In the isles if opportunities disappear people cannot just commute to the next town over – they move away for good. If the Government wants to preserve island communities then they have to follow up on today’s commitments and support our future.”
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said:
“I welcomed the opportunity to discuss vital trade issues for the Northern Isles with ministers today, given how important Orkney and Shetland are to fish farming production both for the UK and international markets.”
Lorna Scott, NFUS Regional Policy Advisor for Shetland said:
“We have been calling for the UK government to take into consideration the whole of the country in their Brexit discussions and so this was a valuable meeting to have. It has been a record year for the sheep market in Shetland and we need to preserve that. In Shetland, we cannot diversify so easily and producing lamb is often the only option on much of our land, as well as significant to our culture, for example, producing the highest quality Shetland wool.
“It is very reassuring that ministers are committed to maintaining live export from the isles to the rest of the UK and beyond. Though it is a long journey, we work hard to maintain the highest possible standards in the country between Shetland, Orkney and Aberdeen. This journey is vital to the future viability of the entire agriculture sector in the northern isles.
“A strong agricultural industry has a multiplier effect for the whole community and economy, providing job prospects to more remote areas, creating the demand for butchers, abattoirs, markets, processers and shops, as well as producing healthy local food from a biodiverse environment. We hope all governments remain committed to investing in our vital industry.”