THE UK Government failed to heed warnings over the damage Brexit would do to Scotland’s food and farming sectors, despite “clearly being aware of the consequences”, a Scottish minister has said.

This follows the revelation that Tory leadership candidate and former International Trade Secretary Liz Truss was given detailed warnings by her own officials in 2020 that post-Brexit trade pacts with Australia and New Zealand would negatively impact the UK’s farming and food sectors.

Data obtained through a Freedom of Information request lodged by former shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry and published in Politico this week showed that Truss was advised that the Australian and New Zealand deals would trigger significant ships in employment away from the semi-processed food sector, while also reducing its value to the UK economy. Truss was also warned that both deals would economically hurt agriculture, forestry and fishing.

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Speaking to the National, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “Brexit has inflicted significant and lasting damage on Scotland’s world class food and drink industries, rural and farming communities.

“I and other Scottish Ministers have repeatedly warned of the damaging consequences for Scotland’s farmers and crofters ever since the UK Government’s own scoping assessment showed Scotland’s agri-food and semi-processed food sectors losing out as a result of the proposed FTAs with Australia and New Zealand. It is bitterly disappointing that the UK Government did not listen to these warnings – despite clearly being aware of the consequences.

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Gougeon added: “Trade deals like the FTA with New Zealand and Australia, do not come anywhere near offsetting the economic losses Scotland and the rest of the UK are suffering as a result of Brexit. Analysis of the impact of the agreement signed with New Zealand suggests an increase in UK GDP of just 0.03% over the next 15 years whilst suggesting that the agriculture and semi-processed food sectors across the UK will lose out as a result of this agreement.

“The door has meanwhile been opened to a significant increase to beef and sheep meat imports from New Zealand following on from the deal signed last year with Australia, which has already caused great concern in the agri-food sector in Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Further criticism came from the National Farmers Union of Scotland, whose director of policy Jonnie Hall told The National: “The Government’s FTA track record to date is largely about deals with major agricultural and manufacturing economies relative to the UK who are looking for tertiary, service or digital trade in return, meaning that our agricultural interests and access to our food and drink sector have been cheap bargaining chips to secure what is seen as more lucrative market access for other sectors. There has been little or nothing in such trade deals for Scottish food or farming.

“What is becoming increasing apparent is the cumulative impact that all agreed FTAs are likely to have. With Australia and New Zealand completed, India and Canada under discussion amongst others, domestic producers are increasingly exposed to being undermined by growing volumes of produce derived from very different agricultural systems that operate with very different cost structures.”