REVEALED! How the NI Protocol helps the SNP break up Britain

The forgotten damage to internal UK trade – Blocked Scottish exports to NI are a recruiting sergeant for secession

Montage © Facts4EU.Org 2022

The EU's damage to constitutional sovereignty and the democratic deficit for Northern Ireland are well known and reported, as are the general limitations on GB-to-NI exports. What has hardly been noticed – and reveals here – is the damage to particular exports to Northern Ireland that were a traditional part of the Scottish economy and with which the Protocol is now wreaking havoc. The only political beneficiary is the secessionist Scottish National Party.

Let’s hope the issue is on Liz Truss’s agenda. It is certainly on Nicola Sturgeon’s, who never misses an opportunity to blame Brexit and the harm caused by the Protocol to argue to break up the United Kingdom so Scotland can join the EU – all in the name of ‘independence’ (sic).

Here we focus on one example - the seemingly innocuous matter of seed potatoes

“This is a disastrous Brexit outcome for Scottish farmers … and like all other aspects of Brexit, foisted on Scotland against our will.”

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP First Minister of Scotland tweeting on the seed potato ban, 24 Dec 2020

'Sowing the seeds of time'

As the signs begin to grow that Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary – now in charge of NI Protocol renegotiation – is abandoning the firm stance taken previously by Lord Frost, we thought it important to show the Protocol is not just a threat to the UK through the developing economic capture of Northern Ireland by the EU and its proxy, the Republic of Ireland, but it also feeds the SNP’s manufactured grievances by creating new issues to justify Scottish separation.

The main focus on the damage done by the Protocol has been on the supermarket supplies being halted at the ports of Larne and Belfast if lorries do not have the correct paperwork (such as using the wrong colour of ink!) or the famed issue of British bangers for Bangor. The problems don’t stop there, however. There are more discrete but just as economically catastrophic bans created by the Protocol that need to be understood by the wider public and addressed by Liz Truss.

Facts4EU is presenting one particular Protocol problem here – the previously regular trade in seed potatoes from Scottish farmers to Northern Irish farmers – but there are others and we may raise them in time when we find suppliers willing to break their painful silence and give us the details.

Seed potatoes

Thanks to its cool and damp climate Great Britain benefits from lower virus pressure and is less hospitable to aphid development, while we are also free from the notifiable bacterial diseases Brown Rot and Ring Rot are – all of which can be problems on the European continent. The UK is therefore a world leader in the supply of seed potatoes – which are vital to the production of any farmer’s potato crops.

The main location for seed potato farming is in the North East and East of Scotland and parts of North East England. Scottish seed potato farmers are one of the biggest exporters for the production of chips and crisps in the world, with the sector accounting for three-quarters of UK production and worth more than £200m a year.

Scottish politicians in rural constituencies write to EU's Šefčovič and UK's Trevelyan

On Thursday three SNP MPs, representing the constituencies of Stirling, Gordon, and Angus, wrote a letter to both the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, and to EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

"The high quality of Scottish seed potatoes is reflected in the fact that Scotland grows 75% of the UK’s seed potatoes which are exported to more than 40 countries. It is therefore deeply concerning that since January 2021 Scotland’s farmers have been virtually unable to export seed potatoes to the EU. This is despite there being no change to the domestic UK plant health requirements for seed potatoes dating from when the UK exited from the EU on this date, or indeed any reduction in the quality of the product itself.

"As you may know, potatoes grown in Europe are vulnerable to developing diseases which ultimately render the crops unsuitable. Without ready access to an ongoing supply of the disease-free seed potato crop which Scotland can produce, there will be a steady diminution in quality of the potatoes able to be grown in the EU, which will begin to affect EU farmers, food producers and ultimately, consumers as well.”

After asking Anne-Marie Trevelyan to intervene, the MPs went on to address Maroš Šefčovič directly, writing:

"We similarly urge you to look favourably on finding a solution to this matter, by either seeking to engage proactively with the UK Government or by responding favourably to any approach which the UK Government might go on to make."

The EU's refusal to accept 'mutual recognition'

Due to the EU’s central strategy of demonstrating that any country having the audacity and impertinence to leave the EU will only suffer pain, it refused to include a section in the (misnamed) Trade & Cooperation Agreement – continuing with mutual recognition of standards. This means the sale of all seed potatoes to the 27 members states is banned by the EU.

Thanks to the NI Protocol the EU ban also applies to British seed potato sales to Northern Ireland, as it is treated as being within the EU’s Single Market despite it being a fully signed up part of the UK since 1800.

For the first six months of the T&CA’s operation (from January 1 2021) DEFRA continued to allow EU import of seed potatoes into the UK in an attempt to encourage the EU to reciprocate. When they did not the UK then banned the varieties of seed potatoes imported from the EU, estimated at 30,000 tonnes of seed a year valued at £13.5m, producing anywhere upwards of 360,000 tonnes of potatoes.

Unlike the European Union, Egypt – the UK’s largest export market for seed potatoes – signed-off a continuity agreement to ensure continued supplies after we left the EU. It is always good to know who your ‘cooperative’ friends are.


Reporting of the NI Protocol has, unsurprisingly, tended to focus on the impact it is having in Northern Ireland. Instances include how it threatens the peace agreement by breeching the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, how it distorts trade and is causing the replacement of British goods by suppliers from the Irish Republic, and how it has blocked the movement of medicines, guide dogs and pets. What has received less attention is the actual goods that are not leaving the mainland British economy, to the huge cost of farmers, manufacturers and wholesalers who previously had the right of friction-free access thanks to the Acts of Union 1800.

This is why today we thought we should take a look at one particular example – firstly because it has a material impact on those farmers affected by restrictions that could have been avoided – and secondly because where these exports are from Scotland the Scottish nationalists (who want to break up the United Kingdom and rejoin the EU) are using the existence of the NI Protocol to foment discontent towards Scotland remaining in the UK.

Let us be in no doubt. In the case of seed potatoes the British Government sought to agree a deal on equivalence of standards with the EU, but it was the EU that turned this down. If Sturgeon wishes to blame anyone it should be her friends in Brussels.

The EU’s mendacity is plain, for their reason was to try and force the UK to concede to ‘dynamic alignment’ of standards, which would mean the UK accepting EU laws when they change. This remains the EU position and is what Maros Sefcovic is demanding from Liz Truss even now. This is all the more absurd because it is the British seed potatoes that have the highest standards – free from the type of blights that mainland Europe’s potatoes often suffer. It is us that should be worried about their standards.

It is also noticeable that the EU has granted equivalence status to the UK for the purposes of production and marketing of fodder crop, beet, cereal, and oilseed seeds for EU member states – but not seed potatoes. Why those in particular, when UK seed potatoes are the World Gold Standard? Could it be to divide and rule within the UK by giving the SNP a cause to make their own?

As always there is an irony in this situation. As everyone knows, the humble potato is the staple of the Irish diet. Some 60% of seed potatoes used by Irish farmers came from Scotland. Now they cannot buy them and they are worried about importing EU seed potatoes because it may bring in disease to Irish potato fields.

Take your concerns to the Taoiseach and the EU we say – it is for them to lift their ban and make friction free trade possible again. But the consequences of former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU negotiator Michel Barnier seeking a 'punishment beating Brexit' still reverberate to the cost of the Irish themselves, even now.

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[Sources: SASA (Scottish government agency) | Twitter accounts of SNP MPs and Nicola Sturgeon | The Scottish Farmer | Irish Times ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Saturday, 22 January, 2022

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