Trade war 'narrative'

Eustice reassures Scots firms over NI protocol

Northern Ireland border
Northern Ireland is the focus of UK-EU tensions

UK minister George Eustice said the government’s proposals to resolve the Northern Ireland protocol should not cause any problems for Scottish exporters.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is drafting a bill that will scrap the protocol if the European Union refuses to change its position.

Mr Eustice, Environment, food and rural affairs secretary at Westminster told a Holyrood committee there was more of a desire on all sides to reach agreement and described talk of a trade war with Europe as a “media narrative”.

The EU has threatened to retaliate with “all measures at its disposal” if the UK proceeds with new legislation overwriting sections of the protocol.

George Eustice
George Eustice

Salmon Scotland is among the trade bodies to have expressed alarm and its chief executive Tavish Scott has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to warning of a return to export chaos.

Mr Eustice said in evidence to Holyrood’s rural affairs, islands and natural environment committee that “the speculation around trade wars is deeply unhelpful”.

He added: “I think what we’re seeing is a more measured tone from the European Union and indeed from ministers in Ireland as well.

“People recognise that there’s a challenge here that we need to resolve, and there’s nothing that we are proposing that breaches international law. It’s consistent with our obligations.”

He said that getting politics restored in Northern Ireland was crucial, and the UK Government had a responsibility to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is respected.

“It would be a very extreme step if they [the EU} were to give notice to abandon the whole trade and co-operation agreement when we are only seeking to correct the approach on things like Scottish seed potatoes having access to the Northern Ireland market, which is a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do.”

Asked to confirm there will be no disruption to exports and trade if there are changes to border controls, he said: “There’s nothing that we are proposing that would cause any problems at all for Scottish exporters, be they salmon or anything else, since there’s nothing that we’re proposing that should affect the TCA, the trade and co-operation agreement.

“Now obviously I don’t control what the European Union might do on the other side of the border, but I can confirm that we’re proposing nothing that would change their approach.”

See also: SNP at odds over Brexit benefits

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