AFTER FOUR months of pain for Scotland's fresh meat and seafood exporters, a cross party Westminster committee has officially confirmed what they already know – the UK government's Brexit deal did not deliver 'frictionless' trade with the European Union.

Scotland Food and Drink has welcomed the report – compiled by by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – as ‘hugely significant’, not least because it backed SFD's own call for the UK government to get back to the negotiating table with the EU and reach a new agreement on veterinary certification. As things stood, said SFD, arrangements at the border with the EU were 'unworkable and hugely damaging' to business viability.

Chief executive James Withers said: “This is a really significant report from cross party MPs and comes after four months of Brexit pain for our food exporters.

“The committee is right to be critical of the lack of time businesses had to prepare and to identify the very real risk there now is to the viability of some businesses. The reality is that for the vast majority of seafood, meat and other food and drink exporters, doing business with their European customers has become more costly, complex, slower and high risk.

"All the while, the UK border remains completely open for EU business to sell here, without any border checks or friction at all. It is a situation which has only exacerbated the sense of disillusionment for food exporters," said Mr Withers.

“Whilst the start of import checks later this year will level up this situation, shared pain is still pain. The most important recommendation from MPs is the one that urges the UK Government to pursue a veterinary deal with the EU. This is the best option to remove some of the damaging non-tariff barriers in place. This would follow the model of other countries and could have a transformational impact for many UK food exporters, removing the need for paperwork and making border inspections much lighter touch, especially for seafood and meat exports.

“This kind of veterinary deal, which is perfectly doable under the UK/EU Brexit agreement, is simply common sense," he stressed. "It would recognise the reality that businesses in the UK are completely aligned with EU food standards and neither industry, consumers, nor government have said they want to diverge. Instead, we are facing a raft of trade barriers for no gain and a world of pain."

NFU Scotland also welcomed the findings of the EFRA committee, and called on the Government to respond to its with urgency. Chief executive Scott Walker said: “We have highlighted repeatedly since the Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into force at the start of this year that while it was tariff and quota free, it was far from frictionless. This report highlights the considerable trade friction for our exports that now exists.

“The fact that the UK has delayed introducing Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks on EU imports must be addressed," said Mr Walker. "This places British businesses at a huge competitive disadvantage and provides no incentive for the European Commission to get round the table and negotiate on issues such as SPS checks and processes.

“Insufficient priority has been given by the UK Government to agreeing equivalence measures with the EU on SPS and a pragmatic approach must now be taken. It must ensure that the UK-EU SPS Specialised Committee can begin meeting as a matter of priority to help resolve the issues currently facing exporters. We fully endorse the committee’s recommendation that the digital certification of Export Health Certificates is a vital step to reducing trade friction with the EU and the bureaucratic nightmare currently faced by UK exporters."