Post-Brexit Trade Should Prioritise Relationship with the European Union

Free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and US present few opportunities but potential to undermine production standards at home

Trade with the European Union should be prioritised as post-Brexit trade discussions progress, says NFU Scotland.

In responding to the UK Government consultations on free trade negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the Union believes that the government needs to go back to basics and undertake thorough consultation with the industry to identify any opportunity in these markets.

While the three marketplaces do not present clear opportunities, there was continued concern that the UK Government is looking to negotiate Free Trade Agreements with countries which produce to some standards which would not be in keeping with the requirements here in Scotland.

NFU Scotland has consistently argued that the best post-Brexit market outcome for Scottish growers, farmers and crofters was continued membership of the European single market to ensure frictionless trade with key markets.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick commented: “If the Brexit referendum decision is interpreted as ‘taking back control’ then it’s critical the UK Government doesn’t follow up Brexit by undermining our own domestic standards in a rush to sign unnecessary trade deals with countries which produce a number of products to lower standards than would be accepted in the United Kingdom.

“Australia, New Zealand and the United States are significant global exporters of food and if they were given greater access to our domestic market then this would have the potential to increase food miles and damage local farm and croft incomes.

“The UK Government has cited Brexit as a clear opportunity to highlight the UK’s strong environmental and animal health credentials of our food production.  However, this would be an empty gesture if the UK Government allowed increased imports of foods from countries where we are unable to directly legislate any changes to production standards.

“That would be equivalent to exporting our precious welfare and environmental standards overseas.

“Future trade agreements with these countries may also have the potential to impact on our ability to trade freely with our customers in the European Union and this would be unacceptable.

“In 2016, the UK food and drink exports to the EU were £9.9 billion while non-EU exports were £4 billion, highlighting that more than 70 per cent of UK food and drink exports are dependent on frictionless access to the European single market. This includes over 90 per cent of our beef exports, 75 per cent of pig meat exports and 88 per cent of sheep meat exports.

“If the government is serious about opportunities for our food and farming sector post-Brexit then they should go back to basics and undertake thorough consultation with the sector to identify market opportunities. If they believe that Australia, New Zealand and the United States are the correct markets then I strongly suggest they go back to the drawing board.”

Notes to Editors

  • For a copy of the full submission contact
  • NFU Scotland’s 13-date ‘Future Agricultural Policy for Scotland’ roadshow, kicks off in Castle Douglas on Wednesday 7 November.  
  • The full timetable for the roadshow is as follows:
    • Wednesday 7 November - Threave Visitor Centre, Castle Douglas 7pm
    • Thursday 8 November - The Lodge, Carfraemill, Lauder 7.30pm
    • Monday 12 November - Dewars Centre, Perth 7.30pm
    • Tuesday 13 November - Western House Hotel, Ayr 7.30pm
    • Wednesday 14 November - Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney 7pm
    • Thursday 15 November - Lerwick Hotel, Lerwick, Shetland 7pm
    • Thursday 22 November - Garfield Hotel, Stepps 7.30pm
    • Friday 23 November - Officers Mess, MACC Business Park, Campbeltown 12pm and Cuan Mor, Oban 7pm
    • Monday 26 November - An Crubh, Sleat, Isle of Skye 7pm
    • Tuesday 27 November - Pentland Hotel, Thurso 7pm
    • Wednesday 28 November - Dingwall Mart, Dingwall 7pm
    • Thursday 29 November - Glen Garioch, Thainstone Mart, Thainstone 7pm
  • Media are invited to attend.  For more details email or call 0131 472 4000 and ask to speak to a member of the communications team.


Contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108

Author: Ruth McClean

Date Published:

News Article No.: 151/18

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About The Author

Ruth McClean

Having worked in the communications and journalism industry for the last 11 years, NFU Scotland’s Communications Manager Ruth McClean understands the needs of journalists and has extensive knowledge of the wider agricultural industry. After growing up in Argyll and Bute and working in the area as a reporter for local newspapers for eight years, Ruth joined NFU Scotland in 2013 in her current role. She is also Editor of the Union’s membership magazine the Scottish Farming Leader.

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