Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed news that the UK’s trade deal with Japan is to include geographical protections for Northern Isles produce, but noted that the agreement raises questions about the government’s negotiations on the much larger EU trade agreement. Responding to a statement in Parliament by the International Trade Secretary, Mr Carmichael noted that the UK appeared to be giving guarantees on state aid rules to Japan that were stronger than those it was willing to make with the EU, imperilling a deal with the UK’s largest trade partner.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“May I welcome the progress that was made in relation to geographically protected indicators, a number of which come from the northern isles in relation to this deal? The Financial Times article does say that David Frost is concerned that the Secretary of State has given away more in relation to level-playing field issues than he is offering to the EU. If that is correct, then that is very serious indeed. Will she commit to publishing the state aid clauses now?”
Responding for the government, International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss MP said:
“I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the new listing of Orkney beef, Orkney lamb and Orkney Scottish Islands cheddar, and I think we also have a Shetland geographical indicator…
“[On state aid provisions] We are still in the legal scrubbing process with Japan. Once that process is finished, we will be sharing our text with the International Trade Committee, which will then fully analyse it.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“It is good to see expanded recognition for distinctive Northern Isles products in the Japan trade deal. We have to look at the wider context, however, and that includes the very real threat to our exports of these products to our primary markets in the EU.
“Given that the government was willing to make promises to Japan about state aid it seems bizarre that they cannot make the same guarantees as part of an EU trade deal. Perhaps it is because they are again playing politics with Brexit rather than prioritising secure trade for our exporters – or perhaps they simply intend to break this deal with Japan as well as soon as it proves inconvenient. Either way, they need set aside the politics and put livelihoods first.”