British protected food names could be under threat in post-Brexit deals

Concerns have been raised regarding on the protection of traditional British produce and geographically tied food names in future trade deals.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing is seeking “urgent assurances” that Geographical Indications (GIs) will continue under any new trade deals agreed by the UK Government.

In a letter to UK ministers Michael Gove, David Davis and Liam Fox, Ewing said it highlights the deep concern this is creating for many Scottish producers and businesses.

Scottish Farmed Salmon, Scotch Beef and Scotch Whisky are among the country’s produce given special protection.

Writing to the ministers, Ewing said: “The lack of clarity being shown by the UK Government, coupled with the frequency in which the media is reporting apparent future trade deals being discussed where GIs are either an afterthought or not deemed to be important is creating some real concerns from many stakeholders across Scotland.

“Indeed, the recent evidence provided by Mr. Gove at the Rural Economy Committee of the Scottish Parliament and reference to “forms of protection” rather than confirming a GI system has only added to this lack of clarity on the issue.

“The time is right for us to see some concrete assurances from the UK Government that not only do you consider GIs and protection of our world-renowned produce of great importance and will seek to continue the protection offered by holding the status, but that the UK Government will give them their rightful place at the forefront of future trade negotiations.”

Not settled

He added that over recent months his officials had queried the fact that the GI provisions were still flagged as “on-going discussions” in the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

“That position has never been satisfactory for us or our stakeholders and requires to be addressed urgently,” he said.

“More recently, we hear suggestions that the difficulty over these provisions is that, in requiring continued recognition in the UK for existing EU GIs, they stray beyond what is necessary for withdrawal from the EU into what might be more appropriate for a future economic partnership.

“We need you to either agree to the provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement, and resolve this unnecessary dispute, or be very much clearer about what your objections to the provisions are really based on.

For Scotland, the inclusion of GIs in trade deals is not only a need, but a pre-requisite; after all, we are home to some of the highest value GIs in Europe.

“As you are more than aware, we have been critical of the failure by the UK Government to put forward any UK GIs for inclusion in the CETA deal with Canada and a lack of consultation around other deals such as Mercosur and Mexico.

“Coupled with the absence of any reference whatsoever to food and drink from your recent statement on trade collaboration with Hong Kong, it gives the impression that your Government cares little for this sector.

“We, therefore, urge you and your Government to set the record straight and commit to not only guaranteeing continued protection for current holders of GI status, but also providing the assurance being desperately sought by stakeholders that protection for our iconic products will be integral to future trade deals.”