The House of Lords European Affairs Committee report published today (11 October) claims removing tariffs on shrimp and prawn imports into the UK from the signatories could avoid £1m – £2.7m annually.
This would not only benefit businesses in Norway, but would also reduce costs for the UK fish processing industry, according to the report. The industry employs 18,000 people across the UK, almost three quarters based in Scotland, East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.
However, the committee makes clear the deal is in some senses only an exercise in damage limitation: it preserves financial benefits previously enjoyed by the UK as part of its former membership of the European Economic Area.
“As such, the committee concludes that the FTA is in part an exercise in damage limitation: seeking to avoid new barriers to trade, rather than to remove existing barriers,” a release on the report states.
Scottish government criticism
It highlights Scottish government criticism that the agreement was negotiated without adequate input from the UK’s devolved administrations.
It also states it is not clear how Northern Ireland will benefit from the trade deal under the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. And it expresses surprise that no reference was made to this in any of the materials that the Government published alongside the agreement.
The Committee said these materials ‘appear to have been produced in haste’ and do little to facilitate effective parliamentary scrutiny.
That said, it welcomed provisions for trade in services, where the provisions on the movement of people go further, in some respects, than those the UK agreed with the EU.
Committee chair Lord Kinnoull said: “We welcome the Government’s successful conclusions of negotiations on a free trade agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and the speed with which agreement was reached.
“While the agreement is in part an exercise in restoring the position and seeking to avoid the imposition of new barriers to trade, rather than in removing existing barriers, its impact upon trade in goods and services could be significant particularly in the long term.
“We do however continue to have concerns about the timing and level of scrutiny and engagement for the free trade agreements that are being struck, especially in a deal involving two of the UK’s immediate neighbours in Iceland and Norway. It is of vital importance that parliament at Westminster and the devolved legislatures have the opportunity to examine these agreements and feed into the negotiation process before it concludes.”