The tariffs and restrictions that would arise from a potential trade war between the European Union and United Kingdom could have a devastating impact on the latter’s exports, Scotland’s salmon farming sector’s representative body has warned.

Media reports suggest U.K. government ministers want to amend the Northern Ireland protocol, which could spark retaliatory action from the E.U., Salmon Scotland has voiced its concerns about potential repercussisons for the sector.

Scottish salmon is the United Kingdom’s top fresh food export, with sales of GBP 372 million (USD 459.3 million, EUR 435.2 million) to E.U. countries last year. The E.U. accounted for 61 percent of Scotland’s total export trade, and as such, the E.U. trade makes a huge contribution to the U.K. economy and supports thousands of jobs in rural Scotland, Salmon Scotland said.

“As the political rhetoric ramps up, the wider interests of all exporters to continental Europe are not being considered. A trade war should be avoided at all costs,” Salmon Scotland Chief Executive Tavish Scott said. “Like many sectors, our members have spent months addressing the challenges of Brexit, including the extra paperwork required. That hard work by Scottish farmers must not be jeopardized. As demand for our world-renowned Scottish salmon continues to soar, we urge the U.K. government to navigate a way through this that doesn’t harm vital trade deals.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol was part of the United Kingdom’s Brexit withdrawal agreement with the E.U. As Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that has a land border with an E.U. country, the agreement stipulated a requirement that checks be carried out on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. That has been a source of tension since the agreement came into force at the start of 2021.

In regard to U.K.-E.U. exports, in April 2022, the U.K. Cabinet Office deferred the implementation of remaining import controls, instead moving forward with a plan to digitize its borders.

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