UK Government gives Scottish exporters a new Brexit hammering

New border checks and packaging rules for trading with the EU loom – this means Scotland’s exports to the trading bloc are likely to fall. That will be bad news for the Scottish economy.

The UK Government, by further smashing Scottish exporters with its Brexit hammer, is likely to see an increase in trade with the rest of the UK. It is not difficult to predict that the UK Government will use this increased trade with the rest of the UK to promote their unionist agenda.

But more Scots than ever now agree that Scotland would be better off as an independent country with Yes at 54% in most recent Ipsos Mori poll. 

Scotland trapped in stagnant UK

Currently, Scotland is trapped within a stagnant UK and can’t do much to affect the catastrophic path the Westminster government is on. All of the main UK parties oppose rejoining the EU. Influential commentators believe it will be decades before the UK rejoins – if ever. 

And it is not just trade. Scotland is losing out on billions of EU infrastructure investment which was channelled through Holyrood. Although the UK is now back in the Horizon research fund, the new deal limits the amount of funding Scottish scientists can attract – whereas before Brexit, they punched far above their weight. In fishing, Scottish and Irish fleets are increasingly at loggerheads over post-Brexit rights and the situation looks likely to worsen. 

Scotland benefited from access to a flexible, seasonal work force as part of the EU. That has gone, while the UK Government’s new immigration package is designed for the needs of London and the South East. Scottish businesses, care homes and public services will lose out. 

Many economists think the UK is entering a period of “stagflation” - high inflation, low productivity and high unemployment.  

Expanding trade with the EU’s 27 countries and 750 million people offers Scotland’s best hope of creating economic growth and the prosperity required to fund great public services. That is within Scotland’s reach – but only with independence.

New “Not for EU” packaging is “cataclysmic” for food exporters

The UK Government’s Northern Ireland arrangements mean Scottish businesses exporting meat and dairy may have to add the words “Not for EU” to all packaging. Because of the difficulty and expense of creating two different packaging streams, many smaller businesses are likely to give up on exporting to the EU at all. 

It was in February this year that Rishi Sunak trumpeted the “Windsor Agreement” that he said would create streamlined trade with the EU. His UK government is currently locked in talks with the DUP in an attempt to bring back Stormont.

But as part of these negotiations, all meat and some dairy products moving from Great Britain to be sold in Northern Ireland – part of the U.K. – have been required to carry “not for EU” labels since October 2023. It's meant to ensure goods aren't moved onward into the Republic of Ireland, an EU member country. 

From October 2024, all meat and dairy products sold right across the UK will also have to include the labels – even if there is no intention to ever send the products to Northern Ireland. That will apply to even more products from October 2025 and it applies to imports as well as food produced in the UK. 

Sean Ramsden, director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association and the CEO of food export business Ramsden International, described the new system as “absolutely cataclysmic for food exporters.” He said he fears that “eventually all of the products” he is supplied with by partner Co-op “will be labelled ‘not for EU,’ which means we can’t export them to the EU.”

Scotland’s Food and Drink Federation largely agreed with this analysis – its report released this week concludes that the small and medium sized businesses that make up the vast majority of this important sector simply cannot absorb the cost of two packaging streams. David Thomson, Food and Drink Federation Scotland's Chief Executive Officer, said: "The planned introduction of "Not for EU" labelling will create a new barrier to trading with our largest export markets in Europe and poses a significant risk to exports.”

4 in 10 businesses say exports to the EU are falling

A survey by trade body, Make UK, shows that there has been “little improvement” since its first post-Brexit survey in 2021, with 40% of surveyed businesses saying export volumes to the EU were falling and 36% of UK companies saying EU companies were less willing to work with them.

After businesses expressed concern over the impact new border controls starting in January 2024 will have on imports from the EU, Make UK also warned that the new measures were likely to create “additional friction.” The UK Government confirmed in October that new post-Brexit border checks will cost UK businesses at least £330 million a year.

The UK is on the road to nowhere – Scotland wants to go its own way

The UK economy continues to suffer from Brexit damage in many areas – the slump in exports, the higher cost of imports, the UK’s skewed balance of payments, the loss of structural funds, the seasonal workforce and science funds. 

But within the UK, the English electorate has full sway. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit but that didn’t matter to Westminster. Scotland is being damaged – but the UK political parties don’t have anything to offer. The only path for Scotland to rejoin the EU is through independence.