Significant concerns have been raised across Scotland over the decision by the UK Government following a Leave vote in the EU referendum to exit the European Union. The Holyrood Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee (CTEER) has been taking evidence on the implications of leaving the EU and has produced a report ‘Brexit – What Scotland thinks: summary of evidence and emerging issues’ .
The CTEER received over 150 submissions , from bodies representing a range of interests from agriculture and fisheries, industry, the law, academics, equalities groups, churches, trades unions, charities, local authorities, and youth groups.
In the areas of less favoured agricultural land or research funding , Scotland‘s current share of EU funds compared to the rest of the UK outstrips what would be provided if it was based on population size. This has, therefore, raised many concerns across all sectors in Scotland and particularly affects Orkney.
Some key areas affecting Orkney in agriculture and fisheries and covered by the report are outlined here by The Orkney News.
On leaving the EU farming will no longer be covered by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which provides direct payments to farmers, market support measures and rural development programmes supporting the wider rural economy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, has provided some assurances to farmers and crofters in Scotland that they will be financially supported throughout the period of negotiation as the UK exits the EU.
From 2014 to 2020, Scotland would have received around €4.6 billion (£3.5 billion) under the CAP funding from the EU. The Scottish agriculture sector is heavily reliant on CAP funding, with support payments accounting for around two-thirds of total net farm income in Scotland. Questions still remain unanswered as to how the funding will come to Scotland.
The NFU Scotland, however, sees advantages in Brexit in that :’it gives Scotland a unique opportunity to build a new domestic agricultural and rural policy which is adapted to Scotland‘s needs, is targeted at activity and innovation, that is easily understood and is simple to administer.’
Food and Drink Industry
The food and drink industry in Scotland currently has seen an increase in its turnover of £14.3 billion in 2013 from £10 billion in 2007. The sector has a growth target of £16.5 billion by 2017.
Orkney’s food and drink industry is incredibly successful with the quality of the products ensuring a unique position in the market place. With many workers in this sector not born in the UK, exiting the EU will have a significant impact. In Scotland it is estimated that this amounts to 39,000 people.
The shape of future trade agreements will also be key , given this sector’s reliance on exporting and how a new regulatory framework will operate across the UK.
On leaving the EU Scotland’s fisherman will also be saying farewell to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The UK joined the CFP in 1970 with the conclusion of a deal signed by the then Prime Minister Ted Heath with the seas becoming a shared resource. Before this there had been no CFP. It gave all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds. The disastrous impact of the CFP was soon felt in the Scottish fishing industry and despite reforms it has remained deeply unpopular.
The EU currently provides funding to fishers and fishing communities for a number of purposes including supporting sustainable fishing and helping coastal communities to diversify their economies e.g. through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund with €108m to be allocated to Scotland. It is unknown as yet if this kind of funding will be matched.
Following withdrawal from the EU, the UK could take full responsibility for fisheries in the UK‘s Exclusive Economic Zone ( EEZ). A key question will then be the extent to which the UK will as a result have greater access to fish.
It is not clear the extent to which the UK would be able to exclude vessels from other countries given the political tensions this may cause, the scope for retaliatory action, potential limitations from international law and what impact this may have on the ability to export into the remaining 27 countries of the EU.
After withdrawal from the EU, Scotland and the UK will need to cooperate with the EU on quota setting. Cooperation on sharing stocks is required, as many fish stocks are migratory. At present, the EU cooperates and negotiates with non-EU countries on behalf of Member States, with the outcome of negotiations on one stock often influenced by negotiations on another. After Brexit, Scotland and the UK will need to maintain a close working relationship with the EU to enable the effective management of fisheries and have a means of agreeing quotas and management measures with the EU and other countries.
With Article 50 set to being triggered in March there is still great uncertainty as to how the decision to leave the EU will impact on key industries.
In the EU referendum in 2016 Orkney voted 63.16 % to remain in.
Next week in The Orkney News we will look at Brexit concerns for the Inshore Fishing Industry
Reporter: Fiona Grahame