Scotland’s world renowned high health seed potato industry faces an uphill battle in protecting its £100m export trade regardless of what deal is brokered with the EU.

While as yet there has been no clarification on the fine detail of PM Theresa May's draft Brexit deal regarding specific trade negotiations, let alone whether her government or indeed Parliament will back it, the Scottish seed potato sector still risks losing 13.5% of its export trade if the EU market is closed to it.

And, it's not just the export market with the EU that would be affected. Trade with Egypt and North Africa might also be hit as the UK would become a 'third country' and would thereby be outside the trade agreements signed by the EU with these countries and might be subject to different trade conditions or WTO tariffs.

That was the stark warning from Raquel Izquierdo de Santiago, secretary general of Europatat, the European Potato Trade Association which represents all sectors of the industry to include breeders, packers, importers and exporters, who said that while so many outcomes to the final Brexit deal remain, exports to the EU and other countries would be "impossible in the short-term."

Speaking at the AHDB's Seed Potato Industry Event in St Andrews last week, she said: "No one wants a no-deal scenario. We don't foresee any problems once agreement has been met on the European side, but so many outcomes remain uncertain."

She added that after Brexit, EU imports into the UK would become a third country and therefore subject to conditions set by Defra and exports from the UK to the EU and further afield would thereby be subject to current EU agreements.

"If we can have trade and the same legislation, there shouldn't be a problem trading with a third country, but these sort of decisions cannot be made until after Brexit and we just don't know how long that will take," she said.

She also urged producers to work in close contact with the authorities and raise any issues with them.

Backing up these statements, Professor Gerry Saddler, chief plant health officer for Scotland and head of SASA, said: "We want to remain members of the Customs Union and the Single Market to ensure free trade but there is a huge amount of work to be done and legislation passed or mutually agreed if interruptions to trade are to be avoided. We will also have to abide by EU rules if we wish to retain this trade," he said.

Professor Saddler also highlighted that imports of seed potatoes from the EU – which are similar in volume to the amount exported from the UK – and urged producers to lobby Members of Parliament in relation to the UK's plan to continue importing EU seed potatoes when in effect the EU is not prepared to accept Scottish seed.

Furthermore, he outlined the difficulties after the UK exits the EU for the cultivation and marketing of potato varieties which are currently on the EU’s Common Catalogue but not the UK’s National List. Producers were urged to apply to the authorities to ensure varieties were brought onto the National List so that production could continue and he reported that 413 applications had been received, to date, by Defra.