Scottish politicians clashed in Holyrood last week over the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s economy.
Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, was accused of using the referendum result as a ‘smokescreen for the SNP’s failings’ as she expressed concerns about the Government’s ability to achieve its ambitious environmental targets outside the EU.
Other MSPs branded the Minister’s comments ‘project fear on steroids’ and said she was refusing to deliver on Brexit opportunities.
The row came as a new report commissioned by the Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, said Scottish food and drink exports could fall by £250 million as a result of Brexit. Only two other sectors were predicted to have a higher drop.
The study by the Fraser of Allander Institute looked at three different models – the ‘hard Brexit’ model of operating under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and two ‘softer’ options of the Norwegian and Swiss models.
John Armour, supply chain policy manager at NFU Scotland, said: “The figures in this report highlight there could be a significant loss of food exports post-Brexit, demonstrating the importance to the food industry of a sensible future trade deal being agreed between the EU and the UK.
“A theoretical loss of £250 million is substantial, but we must also note the turnover of the food and drink industry in Scotland is £14.4 billion."
The WTO model was a worst-case scenario for Scottish food and drink with new tariffs affecting the sector more than others, but the report said even the ‘softer’ options could mean added regulatory costs for farming businesses, such as the the re-introduction of customs controls for goods exported to the EU and the requirement for exporters to obtain certificates to prove the domestic content of their exports.
The report does not, however, take into account possible policy changes after Brexit such as new trade deals with third countries, so any benefit of those new agreements was not taken into account.
The authors have recommended further research into the possible impact on the food and drink industry on a product-by-product basis.