Meat industry responds to Brexit deal
Trade organisations representing the British meat industry have reacted to the new Brexit agreement which was reached on 24th December between the UK and the EU, with many welcoming the new deal.
With concerns of a no-deal Brexit growing, to the relief of many, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the ‘Christmas Eve Agreement’ between the UK and EU had been reached, ending many months of negotiations and speculation.
Announcing the historic trade deal, Johnson said: “From January 1st we are outside the customs union, and outside the single market. British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament, interpreted by UK judges sitting in UK courts and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.
“We will be able to set our own standards, to innovate in the way that we want. We will be able to decide how and where we are going to stimulate new jobs and new hope, with freeports and new green industrial zones. We will be able to cherish our landscape and our environment in the way we choose, backing our farmers and backing British food and agricultural production.”
Meat Management broke the news on Christmas Eve shortly after the announcement was made and has since contacted major industry bodies for views and reaction about the deal and how it will impact the industry. See our 24th December story here.
British Meat Processors Association (BMPA)
A BMPA spokesperson commented: “Thus far, our members have largely steered clear of sending goods to the EU in order to avoid the predicted disruption at ports. However, this cannot continue and we expect to see a fuller picture emerge of how the new system is working over the coming days and weeks as exports resume.
“It is worth noting that there are several complex issues that still remain unresolved and which have a major bearing on trade in products of animal origin with the EU going forward. BMPA is working closely with the relevant authorities to resolve these issues.”
National Farmers Union (NFU)
NFU president, Minette Batters, said: “The successful conclusion of a deal between the UK and EU is very positive news for British agriculture. The EU is our largest trading partner and we have been clear throughout negotiations that maintaining tariff-free access to the EU market is absolutely crucial for our food and farming industry, not only for farmers’ businesses and livelihoods, but for our ability to continue to provide a secure supply of quality, home-grown food for the nation.
“We will now analyse the details of this agreement to ensure it meets the needs of British food and farming. The tariff-free element will be a particular relief for farmers that rely heavily on the EU export market, such as our sheep farmers, as well as farmers across British agriculture that produce the safe, traceable and affordable food that underpins more than £14 billion worth of export sales each year to the EU.
“It does remain the case though that our relationship with the EU will experience a fundamental change at the end of the transition period and we do anticipate that there will still be disruption to trade at the border. New checks, paperwork and requirements on traders will add costs and complexity. It is vital Government does all it can now to prioritise exports of our high quality, perishable agricultural products to make sure that these products are not left languishing in queues at the border when the changes take effect.”
Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW)
Martin Morgan, chief executive of SAMW, added: “Confirmation that a deal has been struck and has now been endorsed by both the UK Parliament and Member States in the EU is welcome, however long overdue. For Scotland’s red meat sector the need for extra paperwork countersigned by a vet will impose further significant cost which we could well do without. Without support from the Government to absorb these costs incrementally as the supply chain adjusts to the new trading environment our hard-pressed margins, which are already buckling under the weight of Covid-19 compliance expenditure, that will run into six-figure sums for the major sites, will be wiped out.
“At this very early stage it is evident than many companies that would normally export at this time of year are holding back for now and are watching with great interest, and some trepidation, as to just how the new border checks regime is being managed. On the plus side we now have the certainty that business was desperately asking for on tariffs and quotes, so they can now plan ahead and service the needs of our customers at home and in Europe.”
International Meat Trade Association (IMTA)
Katie Doherty, chief executive of IMTA, said: “IMTA welcomes the news of a deal between the EU and UK being reached, however, it came uncomfortably close to the wire for industry. A 1,300-page document is a feat to read let alone for whole supply chains to act on in just a few short days, particularly at this time of year.
“Confirmation that the aspiration in the political declaration for zero tariffs and zero tariffs on UK and EU goods will be a relief to many in our industry where the MFN ‘full duty’ is substantial. However, it is clear that digesting the ins and outs of rules of origin and its impacts on supply chains will be crucial for many companies at the start of this year. We have fielded many questions already relating to what counts as originating and what documentation is required to prove it. We have organised a briefing session for members early this week with Defra and HMRC officials to help members to navigate rules of origin.
“A key development not from the FTA itself but vital to the meat industry was the news that the UK has received ‘third country status’ approval from the EU meaning that we are permitted to export meat to the EU after 11pm on 31st December. Export health certification and entry via a border control post for vet checks will still be a prerequisite as for any third country, but it is good news for the industry that we can still export to the EU.
“We are working at pace to decipher the contents of the agreement for our members to ensure they are best placed to make any required actions not already taken in preparation for the end of the transition period. Beyond that we will be looking at the agreement in more detail to identify the areas where there are opportunities to improve the trading relationship from the baseline given by the agreement. For example, there are commitments to customs cooperation and trade facilitation.”
Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC)
Ian Stevenson, chief executive of LMC, commented: “After four and a half years of uncertainty and anxiety for our beef and lamb industry there is now at least the certainty of an agreed legal framework setting out the rules of trade from 1st January 2021. Whilst it is very welcome news that a zero tariff zero quota deal for agricultural products has been negotiated the practicalities and cost of doing trade between the UK and the EU will be impacted with new regulatory and physical controls.”
Reflecting on Northern Ireland’s unique arrangements from 1st January 2021, Stevenson added: “Our beef and lamb industry has long played an important role in supplying retail, foodservice and manufacturing customers in Great Britain and the EU 27 with high quality, fully traceable and assured products and now that the transition period has ended that business can continue on an unfettered basis.
“Bringing animals and animal products into Northern Ireland from Great Britain for processing and farming has however become more complicated and in some cases impossible due to current export health certification requirements. As with all agreements detailed implementing rules will continue to be discussed for months and years to come as the new relationship evolves and matures. Industry representatives will have much work to do to ensure that any new trade deals the UK seeks to do with other third countries does not undermine our domestic UK food industry, that UK agricultural support continues to be well funded by HM Treasury and that our industry continues to be prioritised as a key sector of the UK economy.”
National Craft Butchers (NCB)
Richard Stevenson, policy and technical manager for National Craft Butchers (NCB), said: “National Craft Butchers welcomes the news that a trade deal has been reached and we now need to see what this means for the British meat industry. We expect the Government to lend its full support to British meat and British meat processors through this significant period of change and beyond.
“NCB further urges the Government to engage with the independent sector and provide long overdue help for our small abattoirs which are vital to craft butchers, farmers and the rural economy generally, as well as being integral to many areas of Government policy.”
Quality Meat Scotland (QMS)
Alan Clarke, QMS chief executive, added: “Scotland has a strong, vibrant red meat sector, providing premium products both here in the UK and overseas, especially in EU markets. Brexit is an issue of vital importance to businesses in the industry and many companies, particularly in the sheepmeat sector, will be relieved that the transition period will conclude with a deal to avoid tariffs that could have made EU trade unaffordable while depressing prices at home.
“Nonetheless, businesses trading with Europe after the New Year will still need to make sure they are prepared for adjustments in areas from certification to border control measures. They will look to government for clear guidance and support in the weeks and months ahead to help them adapt successfully to these new measures in the short term.
“QMS remains committed to working with all of our industry partners and stakeholders to ensure that businesses have the tools and support required to face the challenges – with increasing confidence – that leaving the EU poses.”
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC)
HCC chairman, Kevin Roberts, commented: “Losing the trade with a market of 500 million consumers on our doorstep, which has taken decades to build, would have been a tragedy.
“Common sense has prevailed after four years of uncertainty for our farmers and exporters. We’re grateful to our European partners for sticking with us through this difficult time, as negotiations have gone right to the wire.
“A no-deal situation would have been a catastrophe for our sector. Now we can build on the excellent brand reputation which PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef has built with European retailers and foodservice companies. We offer exactly what the modern consumer wants; meat farmed to the highest standards of sustainability and welfare, fully traceable from farm to fork.
“We also look forward to building new trade relationships right across the world as we have been for the past few years – lamb exports to the middle east are growing quickly, and there’s huge potential in North America, Asia and elsewhere. This is a good day for Welsh food and farming.”
National Sheep Association (NSA)
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker expressed relief, coupled with a note of caution: “We now have a deal agreed, with third country listings for animal and most plant products, which is a big relief for our sheep industry given that trading on WTO tariffs had the potential to cause serious damage to sheep farming here in the UK.
“It is right that we take a breath and celebrate this breakthrough, but no one should think this means that life will continue as it has been. We are now completely independent and will be treated as a 3rd country by the EU, meaning we will face new and additional export bureaucracy and border controls, adding costs and slowing things down, but it does at least mean that we don’t face the one thing we were dreading – 48% tariff rates.
“We know that key EU countries, like France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Italy want British lamb and we now know we have a fighting chance of some semblance of continuity in our trade patterns. Our trade with the EU makes sense – it’s on our doorstep, it works for both parties and it is a relief that it can now continue.
“We should still expect some disruption to trade and the movement of goods over the first month or so until things settle down and exporters and importers become au fait with new systems, but the relief in agreeing this deal is immense.”
Provision Trade Federation (PTF)
Andrew Kuyk CBE, the director general of the PTF summed up: “Half a cake is better than no bread. What we really wanted for Christmas was to have free and frictionless trade with our largest and closest customers and suppliers.
“While we absolutely welcome the outcome on the first part of that, the second half of the present currently seems to be lost in some 1246 pages of wrapping paper. It is going to take us all some time to work through that, especially for companies with no previous history of third country export procedures. It is no accident that most countries in the world do most of their trade with their nearest neighbours.
“Whether coping with new rules for selling into the EU will incentivise businesses to explore new markets further afield remains to be seen, especially given the many tariff and non-tariff barriers which typically apply to food in most global markets. We will be working closely with our members in the weeks and months ahead to help them understand the implications of these changes, which come at time of extraordinary pressures as a result of the Covid pandemic.
“Our industry has proved remarkably resilient up to this point. But it would be wrong to underestimate the scale of the challenges that lie ahead.”