Industry bodies call for new veterinary agreement to address UK-EU food trader barriers

Food and feed trade associations, hauliers, farmers and veterinary and environmental health professional organisations have joined forces to call for streamlined processes to resolve crippling restrictions to exports to the EU. 

Since the start of this year, British exporters have faced often insurmountable difficulties with post-Brexit red tape and disruption at the UK-EU border, resulting in a significant drop-off in volumes sent to the UK food sector’s biggest market. The ONS reported a decrease of £8.9 billion to £137 billion in the first quarter of 2021, significantly impacting the viability of businesses in Great Britain.

In a new report on Minimising SPS Friction in EU Trade, the SPS Certification Working Group, a cross-industry, veterinary and environmental health group, says the new relationship between Great Britain and the EU has meant that British businesses now face a plethora of new requirements imposed on exports to the EU. These include international sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls which significantly add to bureaucracy, cost and time.

It stressed that businesses are working incredibly hard to navigate these new barriers but calls on the Government to help resolve the severe impact on trade through a new approach by:

  • Improving current systems to remove archaic bureaucracy, reducing time, error and costs;
  • Reviewing requirements for inspection and certification;
  • Negotiating a form of mutual veterinary agreement with the EU which would ease problems trading food and feed between GB and the EU and GB to NI, and from EU to GB when full SPS import controls take effect in 2022 when, arguably, the situation will worsen further.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said: “The rigid but inconsistent enforcement of ‘third country’ trading rules is eroding the profitability and potential viability of exporting products of animal origin to the EU and NI – even though the differences between the food standards are virtually non-existent.”

He said the veterinary agreement proposed in the report could help to address the impasse between the UK and EU over the sale of sausages and mince from GB to Northern Ireland.

The report stressed that if traders are to survive and thrive under the UK’s established Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU, new ways of managing the system must be developed to secure the sustainability of businesses going forward. It pointed out that the situation is likely to get much worse next year when full import controls take effect.

The report calls on the Government to engage with the EU to build a system that works for exporters rather than against them. Without Government support in investing in sufficient resources and systems, a detrimental effect on the sustainability of British businesses can be expected, it concluded.

The report has been published ahead of an evidence session on a potential EU-UK veterinary agreement from the cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission, which which will hear from leading industry representatives, including the British Veterinary Association, British Poultry Council, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the NFU.

Roger Gale MP, who sits on the Commission, said: “This important report highlights the systemic challenges facing food exporters and the need for urgent solutions. This will all help inform the cross-party recommendations we are developing on how current barriers to trade with the EU can be addressed.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.