Defra has raised an EU derogation for Canadian seed potatoes with the bloc as a possible solution to the ongoing prohibition of EU sales of seed potatoes from Great Britain, and in particular Scotland.
Imports of seed potatoes to the EU from non-EU countries are prohibited, except in the case of Switzerland and parts of Canada, which received a derogation some 20 years ago. Post-Brexit trading rules mean that Scottish farmers (who accounted for around 75% of UK seed potato exports) are now unable to export seed potatoes to the bloc, including Northern Ireland.
SNP MP for Gordon Richard Thomson has been campaigning to find a way to restore the trade, and wrote to the then Defra Secretary Ranil Jayawardena in October, asking “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 Directive 2000/29/EC.”
In a response, Defra Minister of State Richard Benyon commented, “The government has raised the derogation granted to Canada with the EU, which may evidence that trade can be facilitated where risks are mitigated.”
Mr Thomson described the move as a cautious step forward and called for a dialogue with the EU to find a resolution. “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,” he said.