By Ian McConnell

Scotland’s salmon sector has raised fears of a “trade war” with the European Union being triggered by the UK Government over the Northern Ireland protocol, warning this could have a “devastating impact on Britain’s export market”.

Salmon Scotland noted “ongoing media reports suggest that UK Government ministers want to urgently amend the Northern Ireland protocol”, declaring this had “sparked concerns of retaliatory action by the EU”.

The industry body described Scottish salmon as “the UK’s biggest fresh food export, with sales of £372 million to EU countries last year – accounting for 61 per cent of global Scottish salmon exports”.

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It added: “This makes a huge contribution to the UK economy and supports thousands of jobs in rural Scotland.”

Tavish Scott, chief executive of 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. Like many sectors, our members have spent months addressing the challenges of Brexit, including the extra paperwork required.”

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He added: “That hard work by Scottish farmers must not be jeopardised. As demand for our world-renowned Scottish salmon continues to soar, we urge the UK Government to navigate a way through this that doesn’t harm vital trade deals.”

The Northern Ireland protocol in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement was formulated to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland, and creates a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland, to avoid checks and controls on the island, is required to apply EU customs rules and align with a list of single-market regulations.