Gordon MP Richard Thomson has given a cautious welcome to a response from DEFRA Minister of State Richard Benyon confirming the UK Government has acted on his request that it seek the same derogations for Scottish seed potatoes that allowed imports to the EU from some parts of Canada in the early 2000s.
Imports of seed potatoes to the EU from non-EU countries are prohibited, except in the case of Switzerland which complies with EU regulations and, unusually, parts of Canada some 20 years ago.
Mr Thomson wrote to the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ranil Jayawardena on 4 October on the back of this research and asked “whether you will explore new ways in which this [the resumption of exports] can be achieved, for example, by seeking to obtain the same derogation that was granted to certain locations in Canada by Directive 2000/29/EC”.
In a response to the Gordon MP, DEFRA Minister (Lord) Richard Benyon said: “The Government has raised the derogation granted to Canada with the EU, which may evidence that trade can be facilitated where risks are mitigated.”
Welcoming the response, SNP MP Richard Thomson commented:
“This is a step forward. How much of a step forward we shall have to wait and see but it is welcome nonetheless.
“I’m slightly surprised that it took an approach from myself for the UK Government to pick this up and run with it. Had we had anything resembling a functioning government in recent weeks and months then we could perhaps have expected the initiative to have been taken before now.
“What we now need is meaningful engagement with the EU on how the precedent of the Canadian derogation can usefully be used to help restore the export markets for Scottish seed potatoes.
“If it can be achieved for parts of the Canadian provinces, then it can be achieved for Scottish seed potato exporters. All it needs is the political will to break with the ideology of Brexit.”