Urgent need of clarity ahead of Brexit, says SAMW

Urgent need of clarity ahead of Brexit, says SAMW

Following the impact of Covid-19 and the ongoing uncertainties surrounding Brexit, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) says a number of questions still need answering as the red meat industry heads into the new year.

The Association is calling on Government to provide clarity on issues such as Brexit, with a deal still having not been agreed with the EU.

SAMW president, Andy McGowan, said: “If ever we needed a clear and effective trade settlement with the EU, given the inescapable demands of Covid-19, this was surely the time.

“Irrespective of individual views on Brexit, and SAMW has members on both sides of the debate, the need for clarity on trading terms and tariffs has always been a vital requirement. Unfortunately, we still don’t have that clarity, leaving many businesses in a state of limbo as we move into 2021. 

“We urgently need to know that viable and effective contingency plans are in place to ensure that any short-term disruption to trade in 2021 will be managed properly.”

“Whatever happens between now and midnight on 31st December, a large degree of trade deal confusion is certain to spread into next year. Even if the political and ideological barriers are at last overcome, allowing a future UK/EU trading agreement to be reached by the year’s end, the practical workings of any new arrangement will need time to be understood and implemented.

“SAMW recently joined with other leading Scottish food and drink bodies in urging the Prime Minister to apply a six-month grace period to any new export rules. We also made a case for the UK Government to fund a buy-back scheme for red meat products which are despatched for sale within the EU market, but which are subsequently seriously delayed at customs. Without such a back-up, member companies cannot be expected to send product ‘into the unknown’ during the early weeks of the new year. This requirement applies just as much to a last-minute deal as it would to a no-deal conclusion.

“We also believe the UK Government should have an intervention support system ready and in place to cope with the eventuality of the home market becoming over-supplied due to disrupted exports into the EU. Without such a measure we could see livestock prices crashing in the first quarter of next year.”

Hope for 2021?

McGowan added: “With Covid-19, our members have shown they can adjust and keep going in the face of the most dramatic health challenge of the last 100 years. We will survive this period and emerge as strong as ever in the future.

“We’re certainly not afraid of 2021; far from it. Having said that, it would be enormously helpful to be provided with some clarity from the UK Government on how the next few months will pan out. We urgently need to know that viable and effective contingency plans are in place to ensure that any short-term disruption to trade in 2021 will be managed properly by Government with a clear eye on protecting the livestock supply chain from a Brexit-induced meltdown, thus ensuring we can move forward with a sense of future strength and prosperity.

“We have a lot to contribute towards delivering on the world stage. Inaction by Government, however, could see this industry being severely damaged before we get the chance to realise our full potential as part of post-Brexit Britain.”

Photograph: SAMW president, Andy McGowan.

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