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MPs call for Scotland to have a guaranteed role in post-Brexit trade negotiations

A committee of MPs has said there is a need for the devolved UK administrations, particularly Scotland, to be closely involved in future UK trade deals to ensure they work for the whole of the country.13 Mar 2019

The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee made the recommendations in a report on Scotland, trade and Brexit after taking evidence from a range of sources including business, trade experts and academics.

In the report the committee said no new barriers to trade should be created between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and that the government should ensure that sectors of importance to the Scottish economy such as food, drink and fisheries were not traded away to secure preferential agreements for other industries.

The MPs said the UK government should bring forward legislation to establish a domestic scheme for geographical indications (GI), which protect products linked to a particular geographical origination such as Scotch whisky. The UK government has said it will establish its own schemes to mirror current EU GI schemes, but no legislation has yet been introduced.

The committee stressed that such a scheme needed to have mutual recognition in foreign markets to work.

There needed to be support for Scottish industries who rely on trade agreements which will not be rolled over or replaced by 29 March, the committee said.

Public affairs expert Andrew Henderson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: “While uncertainty abounds over how the Brexit drama will play-out at Westminster over the coming days and weeks, the committee’s report looks to a point when negotiations progress beyond agreeing an exit deal, and move on to future trade relations."

“While trade policy is not presently a devolved matter, the report calls for an enhanced role for the devolved nations in negotiating future trade deals, and for measures to enhance the protection and promotion of nation and region-specific industries," he said.

The report recommends that the UK government commits to including representatives from the devolved administrations in the negotiating team for future trade agreements, with the understanding that devolved ministers will not deviate from the UK government negotiating position.

MPs also said the UK should explore the option of establishing an international trade sub-committee at the Joint Ministerial Council, which brings together ministers from the UK and overseas territories, to ensure devolved administrations have a role in setting UK trade mandates/

Equivalence with the EU was also given prominence in the report. The committee said the government needed to provide a rationale and carry out consultation with business before any decisions to diverge from EU standards were made, and provide certainty to the services sector by establishing a clear and stable equivalence system with the EU.

Trade promotion activities should complement rather than duplicate each other, the MPs added, saying the UK and Scottish governments should work together in this area.

Scottish Affairs Committee chair Pete Wishart MP said: “The government should start building a UK wide trade strategy predicated on transparency and support for the devolved administrations by setting out how it will support Scottish industries that rely on free trade agreements that are still yet to be rolled over. The government cannot leave Scottish businesses in the dark.”