Brexit threatens future protection of iconic Scots produce

Arbroath Smokies.
Arbroath Smokies.
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The future protection of prized Scottish products such as Stornoway black pudding and Arbroath smokies has been thrown into question due to Brexit confusion.

Under European law, products such as Scotch whisky, Scotch beef, Orkney cheddar and native Shetland wool are protected by “geographical indications” (GI) that recognise their regional importance and distinctive characteristics.

But when the UK leaves the European Union the valued fruits of Scotland will no longer be covered by the same protection.

The UK government has indicated that it intends to establish its own GI scheme after leaving the EU.

And in an article published on Thursday, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the protection of geographical indications is one of the outstanding issues yet to be agreed.

The Scottish Government has said urgent action needs to be taken to resolve the issue and protect unique Scottish food and drink products after Brexit.

Rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing made the plea after Mr Barnier’s article was published.

Mr Barnier said 80 per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement was agreed.

But he added: “We still need to agree on important points such as the protection of ‘geographical indications’.

“This refers to the protection of local farm and food products like Scottish wild salmon or Parmesan cheese, where EU protection has generated significant value for European farmers and producers.”

Mr Ewing said: “Maintaining our protected food names and other geographical indications following Brexit is vital.

“This is something that we have been calling for the UK government to do for a long time.

The European Commission’s chief negotiator recognises the significant contribution that these producers make to the wider economy.

“We have been pressing UK government to agree a need for a UK GI system post-Brexit from the outset and, while we welcome confirmation in their White Paper of the plans to do so, there remains a question over maintaining the existing protection currently enjoyed by our producers within the EU through the mutual recognition of our protected products.

“It is extremely alarming that the EU says this has not yet been resolved and that the failure of the UK government to reach agreement on this issue is being cited as one of the obstacles to reaching an overall withdrawal agreement.

“The UK government must make it clear it is not preparing to ditch vital geographical indications to facilitate a future trade deal with the US. It must rule out ‘no deal’ and reach an agreement that protects our world-class produce.”

A UK government spokeswoman said negotiations were continuing.

newsen@edinburghnews.com