After weeks of talks, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed a deal over post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland today, Monday. The joint solutions cover, among other things, new arrangements on customs, agri-food products, medicines, VAT, and excise duties, so the signing of the agreement has been welcomed by the Scottish salmon industry. "A thawing of the relationship between London and Brussels is welcome news for all exporters", stated Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland.
According to the European Commission, the political agreement reached in the 'Windsor Framework' – named after the place where it was signed – allows the two parties to open a new chapter in their partnership, based on mutual trust and full cooperation, as well as unlocking the full potential of their relationship.
"Today, our achievement allows us to put forward definitive solutions that work for people and businesses in Northern Ireland and that protect our Single Market. It also allows us to turn the page towards a bilateral relationship that mirrors the one of close allies standing shoulder to shoulder in times of crisis", said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
For his part, British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has assured that today's agreement is much more than a treaty or a law. "It's about stability in Northern Ireland. It's about real people and real businesses. It's about showing that our Union, that has lasted for centuries, can and will endure", he claimed. "And it's about breaking down the barriers between us. Setting aside the arguments that have for too long, divided us".
It is not unusual for Salmon Scotland to welcome this "thawing of the relationship between London and Brussels". With sales of £578 million in 2022, Scottish salmon is the UK's largest food export surpassing other products such as bakery, chocolate, cheese, cereals, or lamb. Although it sells to 54 countries, European destinations dominated these exports as the sector continued to recover from Brexit.
Specifically, although the U.S. and Chinese markets remained popular, the EU accounted for almost 64% of sales. France stands out as the main destination with exports of £305 million, while Ireland was the fifth largest market with sales reaching £12 million. The UK domestic market, meanwhile, is valued at around £1.2 billion a year.
The CEO of Salmon Scotland, who on several occasions last year expressed his fears that the deteriorating relations between London and Brussels would affect the sector and also urged the UK Government to find a political solution, is now satisfied with the agreement. "Since Brexit, the export arrangements for our members have been challenging with extra red tape, delays at the Channel, and continued labour shortages", said Tavish Scott. "We have managed to get through that, but an improved relationship will hopefully lead to an easing of the tensions and generate further sustainable growth of Scotland's most successful food sector", he added.
Salmon Scotland (Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation – SSPO – until November 2022) represents every company farming salmon in Scotland along with companies from across the Scottish salmon supply chain, championing the sector's interests. Farm-raised salmon directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and a further 10,000 jobs are dependent on it. The organization works "to help create the conditions for the long-term, sustainable growth of the sector and to give more consumers, at home and abroad, the chance to enjoy this world renowned, low-fat, healthy protein". Scottish salmon is UK shoppers' number one fish of choice, but also Britain's top food export to consumers in 54 countries in 2022.