FEARS have been raised about the future of high welfare egg production in Scotland if a 'no deal' Brexit leads to increased imports of battery-produced eggs.

This week, after being approached for help by the British Egg Industry Council, South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine asked questions in Holyrood about UK ministers' proposal to drop tariffs on eggs from abroad in the event of a leaving the European Union without any agreement on maintaining trade standards.

Responding, rural economy cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing said that he had raised the BEIC's concerns with UK ministers, but they had been unable to give any reassurance that eggs from countries with lower animal welfare standards would not flood the UK market.

Ms McAlpine said: “A no deal Brexit scenario could be disastrous for Scottish consumers and for our high-quality egg industry. Rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway have risen to the challenge of producing high quality free-range eggs in recent years, and it would be disgraceful to put these businesses at risk by allowing poor quality ‘battery’ eggs back onto the market.

“If we leave the EU without a deal, we will revert to WTO rules. Under the World Trade Organisation’s sanitary and phytosanitary rules, animal welfare cannot be used as a barrier to trade, so we could go backwards."

Mr Ewing agreed: “Unfortunately our assessment is that egg production is another of our successful food and drink sectors that will be negatively impacted by a no deal Brexit, and this is particularly true if, as expected, the UK Government leaves the sector without the protection of tariffs or quantitative restrictions on egg products coming into the UK. That would leave Scottish producers at an unfair disadvantage with the potential for imported products of much lower quality and welfare standards flooding the market here.

“These issues were raised with DEFRA Ministers on Monday, but yet again they were completely unable to give us any reassurance whatsoever to alleviate these real and practical concerns."