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'Brexit brings opportunities and risks for UK farmers' - Scots Minister David Duguid

New Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland David Duguid speaks exclusively to Ewan Pate on trade, business confidence and why he voted against legal protection for UK food standards.

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'Brexit brings opportunities and risks for UK farmers' - Scots Minister David Duguid

David Duguid, like all Ministers in Boris Johnson’s government, can be fairly described as being committed to a speedy exit from the European Union.

 

In an exclusive interview with Farmers Guardian earlier this week he admitted there would be risks but that these would be outweighed by opportunities.

 

Speaking about the need to end the transition period on December 31 he said: “I do not think people would look kindly on us if we just kicked the can down the road a bit further.”

 

Asked about the recent joint SRUC/James Hutton Institute survey which showed only 26 per cent of Scottish farmers were optimistic about adapting profitably to life outside the EU, he said: “I know from experience that the responses to surveys depend largely on the questions that are asked.

 

“I do think we need to be mindful of the opportunities as well as the risks. I know from my family experience that farmers will take a cautious approach until they have enough information to make decisions.”


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Just an hour before the interview on Monday (June 29) the Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss had announced her intention to create a Trade and Agriculture Commission.

 

This would, it seems, be purely an advisory body with a limited life.

 

It falls well short of the amendments suggested to the UK Agriculture Bill which would have enshrined food production standards in law.

 

Trade and Agriculture Commission

 

Mr Duguid said: “This proposal for a Commission is very new but I welcome it in principle.

 

“It is something that the farming unions have been discussing with Defra. As an independent advisory body it will go a long way to engaging with stakeholders. It is always good to have a voice from the sideline.”

 

The ‘voice from the sideline’ is however a long way from the amendment to the Agriculture Bill proposed by Conservative MP Neil Parish but voted down by all Scottish Conservative MPs including Mr Duguid.

 

Food standards

 

Asked why he had voted against legal protection for UK food standards he said: “The question should really be to all the MPs from other parties who voted for the amendment and against the opportunities for trade deals.

 

“If the amendment had been passed it would have had many unintended consequences affecting the supply of food.

 

“It would not have worked under World Trade Organisation rules, I could not have supported anything that would have affected the balance of risk between standards and our ability to export to markets such as the US where there is tremendous potential for Scotch Lamb.”

 

“The current ban on hormone treated beef will be retained in UK law as a part the EU transition process.”

 

Welfare

 

As to the possibility of the UK pig sector being overwhelmed by low cost US pork produced to lower welfare standards, Mr Duguid said: “As long as pork is safe to eat it will be allowed in in the same way that pork is currently imported to the EU.

 

“Incidentally, if the amendment to the Agriculture Bill had been voted through one of the consequences would have been that the UK could not import Danish bacon.”

 

Devolved

 

On another tack Mr Duguid said attention would need to be paid to ensuring that the internal UK market operated smoothly given that agricultural policy was devolved.

 

“It is important that a UK wide framework be created for areas such as labelling,” he added.

 

“There is no reason why it cannot happen assuming that the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly cooperate. I expect the Scottish Government to do what is right.”

Profile: David Duguid

David Duguid made history in the 2017 General Election when he took the Banff and Buchan seat back into Conservative hand after 30 years of SNP control.

 

Born into a farming family near Turriff, in the heart of his constituency, he went on to take a degree in chemistry at Robert Gordons University before taking up a career in the oil industry.

 

Mr Duguid has particularly championed the fishing industry throughout the Brexit debate.

 

Early in June he was appointed as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland as a replacement for constituency neighbour Douglas Ross who had resigned in protest at the retention of Dominic Cummings as a Downing St adviser.

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