RISING food prices, more fuel poverty and less choice for consumers are some of the possible consequences of a no-deal Brexit for Argyll and Bute, a new report has warned.

The potential effects of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31 were laid bare in a report put before the area's councillors last week.

The report also says that the effects of a no-deal Brexit are likely to be felt most by people living in rural and island communities, that the area's fresh fish and shellfish industry is expected to be hardest hit – and that the increased focus on this sector could have wider public health implications in the area.

However, the report – which was noted at a full council meeting on September 26, without any debate – says that according to local government umbrella body Cosla, Argyll and Bute was classified as 'ready' for Brexit earlier this year.

Council chief executive Cleland Sneddon said in his report: “There is a concern that the impact is likely to be exacerbated in our remote rural and island communities.

“The tactical team assumes that there will not be an overall shortage of food but a likely reduction in choice, particularly in fresh and perishable foods.

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“There are concerns that a ‘no deal’ withdrawal from the EU may push up the cost of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy as fresh products would not/cannot be stockpiled by suppliers.

“This may have an adverse impact on residents in communities who already suffer from higher food and drink costs due to rurality and island living.

“A related concern is the potential for the exacerbation of fuel poverty in the event that the import costs and stock levels of fuel are affected by both import tariffs and currency fluctuations, given the number of ‘off-grid’ properties across Argyll and Bute.

“It is important to support our communities and ensure that there are adequate arrangements to protect the vulnerable or those who may become vulnerable.

"There may be a higher demand for advice services, access to food banks and applications for crisis grants through the Scottish Welfare Fund and these will be monitored closely through our existing arrangements with our partners.

“A sub-group of the tactical team is reviewing arrangements across Argyll and Bute with the aim of ensuring that our communities have access to the support of the national charity FareShare, who received funding directly from the Scottish Government to increase their redistribution of surplus food around the country.”

Mr Sneddon said that there was a general level of assurance that any impact on services can be managed through business continuity plans – with the exception of export certificates for fish and shellfish.

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He described that matter as “the most critical issue for the council from day one in the event of a no deal”, and added: “There is insufficient capacity within the environmental health team to cope with the potential demand for certificates for exports should they be required for EU destinations.

“There is a large sector in Argyll and Bute that currently trades in the EU common market using their ‘approved status’ – i.e. without the need for certification of every consignment.

“Discussions have been ongoing at a national level for a number of months with significant input from the council’s regulatory services to secure satisfactory solutions and ensure contingency plans are in place before October 31.

“Currently this remains a high risk and it is also assumed in this instance that this will remain a high risk in a ‘deal’ situation.

“This has potential adverse economic implications to the sector itself which are covered in the next theme, and to the wider protection of public health in the event that resources are redeployed to meet the needs of the export market."

The report also said that the council and the area's health and social care partnership (HSCP) had undertaken a full risk assessment early in 2019 and had subsequently produced an action plan.

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“Members should be assured that work is ongoing to respond to the uncertainty surrounding EU-Exit," Mr Sneddon continued.

“Preparation work has been undertaken having regard to national planning assumptions, and a risk register and Action Plan are in place to mitigate the key risks to our area; this work continues.

“We are embedded and actively engaged in national frameworks and discussions on a wide range of issues.

“All our business continuity plans have been revised in order to provide assurance that our core council/HSCP services can be delivered in the event of a ‘no-deal’ EU Exit.

"Such work has included the provision of fuel supplies etc.

“From a contingency planning perspective, we have established systems in place to work with our partners responding to emerging issues and report into the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Centre, which relates directly to Scottish and UK Government.

“The council/HSCP were classified as ‘ready’ using the COSLA Assessment Model in the lead up to the original leave date of March 29, 2019, and remain at this level.

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“All other key areas of activity are highlighted in this report and members should be assured that the tactical team continue to meet regularly to monitor all potential risks and opportunities, ensure satisfactory contingency arrangements are in place and report regularly to the strategic management team.”

When the agenda item with Mr Sneddon's report was reached at Thursday's meeting, Provost Len Scoullar told councillors that since the report was for noting only, there would be no debate on the subject.