Is the Brexit good or bad for the Scottish salmon?
By F.E. OLIMPO
The United Kingdom's recent decision to leave the EU has thrown the country into a state of flux. The referendum outcome, which gave the pro-British exit (Brexit) advocates a narrow 52% win, plunged the pound to a 31-year low against the US dollar, with British banks losing a third of their value.
Although the financial backlash has started to stabilise, with the pound now slowly recovering, so much uncertainty remains as the country prepares for its departure from the union. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, which serves as the EU's constitution, the UK has two years to negotiate its exit.
A lot of unknowns have emerged in the areas of trade, economy, immigration, agriculture, fishing, politics, in fact even in the UK's composition itself, with talk of secession in Scotland and Northern Ireland getting louder.
In the wake of the Brexit vote, the idea of Scotland renewing its bid to secede from the UK, which the Scottish people roundly thrashed in a referendum two years ago, has become far from flippant.
In opting for an exit, UK has practically dragged Scotland along, against the wishes of most Scots who voted 62% against 32% in favour of remaining in the union.
Perhaps they did it for economic reason than for nationalistic ideals or anything. Scotland is the largest producer of Atlantic salmon in the EU and the third largest globally, producing 179,022 tonnes in 2014. As the EU accounts for 40% of their farmed salmon exports, the Scots probably fear that leaving the EU could ruin its thriving salmon industry.
Coming from outside the single market, Scottish salmon could be subjected to tariffs, taxes, quotas, even protectionist trade sanctions, once the exit had materialised. Being part of the EU, as a constituent nation of the UK, Scotland currently trades freely with any of the EU countries. No quotas, tariffs or taxes on all of its exports.
Despite the shock Brexit vote, however, there is no hint of any panic among the Scottish salmon producers. Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation said: 'Salmon farming will continue business as usual and is confident that, as Scotland's number one food export, Scottish salmon will continue to consolidate its commercial success in the coming months and in the long term, with the accompanying benefit to our national economy and to the rural communities where the industry operates."
This confidence, he adds, "comes from the fact that we produce a world class, premium product."
But while Scotlan's salmon sector is worried over the exit, the other fishery sectors actually welcome the pro-exit result. Leaders of the Scottish White Fish Producers' Association (SWFPA) and Shetland Fishermen's Association (SFA) admitted that most of their members are for the Brexit.
"European Union fisheries policy is flawed – that is why so many fishermen voted to leave," said SWFPA chief executive Mike Park. "But we need to recognise that there are significant dangers to the industry if the UK and Scottish governments do not react to the very clear message by focusing on a new approach that recognises fishermen themselves and their communities as the key stakeholders."
The SWFPA, he says, are for "sustainable harvesting and sensible fishing," and they insist on changing "unworkable laws" under the current EU regime.
In the aftermath of the vote, SFA executive officer Simon Collins says, "We will be looking to work together with politicians and civil servants in Edinburgh and London to focus on helping the industry secure improved fishing opportunities and a set of practical, sensible rules that everyone can adhere to while preserving livelihoods and fish stocks."