WITH Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to taking the UK out of the European Union on October 31, fears are growing that Scotland’s iconic food and drink brands will lose their protected status.

Under current EU rules, foodstuffs like Stornoway Black Pudding and Arbroath Smokies have what is called Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) which mean that no producers within the PGI territory can promote their products unless they are from that area and comply with regulations.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the newly appointed UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Theresa Villiers calling on her to ensure that iconic Scottish food and drink products continue to have the necessary protections in place in the EU – deal or no deal.

The UK Government has previously indicated that PGIs will maintain their protected status in Europe and associated territories regardless of the UK leaving the EU – but those assurances have been contradicted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra’s) own guidance.

Geographical indications are used to promote and protect the names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs, such as Scotch Whisky, Scottish-farmed Salmon and, most recently, Ayrshire Earlies.

The National:

Ewing wrote: “I wish again to put on record that the Scottish Government find the approach being adopted by the UK Government deeply concerning. It is not enough to simply hope and believe that the EU will not take steps to remove existing UK GIs from their registers, especially if we are not to protect their GI products from day one in the UK scheme.

“This stance is causing real uncertainty for producers and I implore you to do more to attempt to secure this mutual recognition in negotiations taking place.

“Can you advise as to whether any discussion has actually been had between the UK and EU, on this very important issue? We are far from being alone in this view.

“The Government is optimistic that the EU will continue to recognise UK GIs in the event of a no-deal Brexit, given the mutual benefit, but there is no guarantee.

“Therefore, there is no room for complacency. Given the potential for the UK to leave the EU without a deal in October, the Government should ensure that the domestic GI system meets the criteria required for EU approval and is ready prior to exit, to minimise disruption to British exporters.

“It should prioritise seeking a reciprocal agreement with the EU on GIs if agreeing an overarching withdrawal agreement is not possible.

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“Now that it is clear that the concerns on this matter are shared across governments, parliaments and parties, I trust you will now agree to make sure we have the necessary protections in place and act decisively and quickly to achieve a reciprocal agreement on GIs – deal or no deal – something that the producers of our world renowned and iconic geographical indications deserve.”