No-deal Brexit would cost us £2bn, Scots food in­dus­try lead­ers warn

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS - By Paul Hutcheon

BUSI­NESS lead­ers from across the farm­ing and food and drink in­dus­tries in Scot­land have called on politi­cians to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

In an joint open let­ter, chief ex­ec­u­tives from seven bod­ies rep­re­sent­ing the sec­tors sug­gested this sce­nario would cost the in­dus­try around £2 bil­lion in lost sales an­nu­ally.

MPs will vote on Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s deal on Tues­day, with the UK ex­pected to de­part the Euro­pean Union on March 29.

The let­ter states: “Whilst recog­nis­ing there is no po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus yet on a fu­ture trade re­la­tion­ship with Europe, the po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic im­pact of not reach­ing any deal is clear.

“We are col­lec­tively hugely am­bi­tious for the growth of our in­dus­try.

“How­ever, even us­ing the UK Gov­ern­ment’s own pro­jec­tions, we es­ti­mate the cost of no-deal to our in­dus­try would be at least £2 bil­lion in lost sales an­nu­ally.

“That is on top of the short-term chaos re­sult­ing from trans­port de­lays and labour short­ages.”

James Withers ( Scot­land Food & Drink), Scott Walker (NFU Scot­land), Alan Clarke (Qual­ity Meat Scot­land), David Thom­son (Food and Drink Fed­er­a­tion Scot­land), Julie Hes­keth- Laird (Scot­tish Sal­mon Pro­duc­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion), Alas­dair Smith (Scot­tish Bak­ers) and James Gra­ham (Scot­tish Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion So­ci­ety) are the chief ex­ec­u­tives who are sig­na­to­ries to the let­ter.

The in­dus­try lead­ers also in­di­cated their busi­nesses have al­ready been im­pacted by the pos­si­bil­ity of a no-deal.

They state in the doc­u­ment: “Our busi­nesses are al­ready bear­ing the cost of no- deal, hav­ing to spend mil­lions of pounds in time and in­vest­ment to mit­i­gate the po­ten­tial dis­rup­tion that will stem from the UK crash­ing out of the EU.

“We rep­re­sent the peo­ple who farm Scot­land’s land and seas, and food and drink busi­nesses that are the na­tion’s largest on­shore man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, em­ploy­ing 120,000 peo­ple. The EU ac­counts for 70% of Scot­tish food ex­ports an­nu­ally and it is also the source of cru­cial in­puts and sup­plies for our sec­tor.

“By Par­lia­ment re­ject­ing a no-deal sce­nario, our in­dus­try ef­fort can fo­cus on shap­ing a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the EU that we can work with, not pre­par­ing for the fall­out we can’t. There is no tol­er­ance for no-deal as an op­tion. It must be re­jected now.”

Mean­while, Cabi­net min­is­ter Chris Grayling has been ac­cused of “gut­ter pol­i­tics” af­ter he warned that block­ing Brexit could “open the door” to “ex­trem­ist” pop­ulist po­lit­i­cal forces in the UK.

He said putting a stop to Bri­tain’s with­drawal from the EU may end cen­turies of “mod­er­ate” as he urged his Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues to back May’s Brexit deal.

The Trans­port Sec­re­tary, who cam­paigned for Leave, said the mil­lions who voted for Brexit would feel “cheated” if the UK did not quit the bloc.

Days be­fore the crit­i­cal Com­mons vote, Grayling said: “Peo­ple have to think long and hard about how they are go­ing to vote. This is too im­por­tant for po­lit­i­cal game-play­ing and I urge Con­ser­va­tive MPs who back Brexit and oth­ers to back the deal. If not, we risk a break with the British tra­di­tion of mod­er­ate, main­stream pol­i­tics that goes back to the Restora­tion in 1660.

“MPs need to re­mem­ber that Bri­tain, its peo­ple and its tra­di­tions are the mother of par­lia­ments. We ig­nore that and the will of the peo­ple at our peril.”

He said there would be a “dif­fer­ent tone” in British pol­i­tics if Brexit was blocked and pre­dicted a “less tol­er­ant” and “more na­tion­al­is­tic” so­ci­ety.

“It will open the door to ex­trem­ist pop­ulist po­lit­i­cal forces of the kind we see in other coun­tries in Europe,” he said.

His com­ments were con­demned by pro- EU Tory for­mer min­is­ter Anna Soubry and Labour for­mer min­is­ter David Lammy.

Soubry, who was branded a “Nazi” and a “liar” by a mob on Mon­day, de­scribed Grayling’s com­ments as “ir­re­spon­si­ble non­sense”.

Lammy said: “This is a des­per­ate at­tempt by a Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter to use a tiny far- right mi­nor­ity to hold our democ­racy to ran­som. It is gut­ter pol­i­tics.”

Lead­ers from fish­ing and farm­ing have writ­ten an open let­ter spell­ing out the con­se­quences of crash­ing out of the EU with­out a deal Be­low: Chris Grayling came un­der fire yes­ter­day

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