Tavish Scott returned from Brussels after a constructive meeting with Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Scott commented on the issues he raised:
‘I raised with Michel Barnier the importance of seafood exports from Shetland to Europe. I asked what the impact will be of leaving the EU on exports of seafood into European markets and whether he recognised the size of Scotland's food and drink industries and the scale of Shetland's £300 million seafood industry. In particular, I raised the importance of fresh fish landed in Shetland crossing European borders into French and Spanish markets and whether this would be more difficult when the UK leaves the EU and different customs arrangements exist at the English Channel.
As a former French fisheries minister he was well aware of Shetland's significance both in catching and processing terms. His main point was that nothing should change in the short term as long as there is a transitional agreement between the UK and the EU. That means the UK must formally negotiate such a transitional arrangement to make sure trade can continue as it currently does. The UK Government have yet to make that request. It is very important for all trade and especially seafood that they do this.
Scott gave his impression of the state of the Brexit negotiations more generally:
‘Overall I sensed that Mr Barnier, who is negotiating on behalf of all the countries of the EU, is frustrated by the lack of negotiating progress. He believes that the UK Government have yet to say what they want on lots of issues such as budgets. So it is very important that on practical issues such as cross border movements of seafood, the UK government try to minimise any measures that could make trade more difficult, expensive or waste time. The potential for that disruption is significant depending on how trade discussions between the EU and UK go, and these have yet to start.
The European Committee at Holyrood is asking the lead UK Minister David Davies to present his position on these issues. Mr Barnier was crystal clear about asking for complete clarity from the UK Government so that negotiations could take place. I look forward to asking Mr Davies when that is going to happen’