Scotland Food & Drink welcomes Brexit impact report

Scotland Food & Drink has welcomed as ‘hugely significant’, a report by a cross party committee of MPs looking into the impact of Brexit on seafood and meat exports.

Of most significance is a recommendation from the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that UK Government should pursue a veterinary deal with the European Union. The report concludes that the new trade barriers facing small seafood and meat export businesses could render them unviable, and factories and jobs may relocate to the EU.

In its written evidence to the inquiry, Scotland Food & Drink stated that the single most important priority of UK Government must be to explore a veterinary deal with the European Union to alleviate the unworkable and hugely damaging non-tariff barriers that have been put in place.

A veterinary deal, similar to that in existence with other non-EU countries such as Switzerland, could remove the need for significant amounts of border inspections, and paperwork such as Export Health Certificates.

Scotland Food & Drink Chief Executive, James Withers said, “This is a really significant report from cross party MPs and comes after four months of Brexit pain for our food exporters.

“The committee is right to be critical of the lack of time businesses had to prepare and to identify the very real risk there now is to the viability of some businesses. The reality is that for the vast majority of seafood, meat and other food and drink exporters, doing business with their European customers has become more costly, complex, slower and high risk.

'All the while, the UK border remains completely open for EU business to sell here, without any border checks or friction at all. It is a situation which has only exacerbated the sense of disillusionment for food exporters.'

Withers continued, “Whilst the start of import checks later this year will level up this situation, shared pain is still pain. The most important recommendation from MPs today is the one that urges the UK Government to pursue a veterinary deal with the EU. This is the best option to remove some of the damaging non-tariff barriers in place.

'This would follow the model of other countries and could have a transformational impact for many UK food exporters, removing the need for paperwork and making border inspections much lighter touch, especially for seafood and meat exports.'

Withers went on, 'This kind of veterinary deal, which is perfectly doable under the UK/EU Brexit agreement, is simply common sense. It would recognise the reality that businesses in the UK are completely aligned with EU food standards and neither industry, consumers, nor government have said they want to diverge.

'Instead, we are facing a raft of trade barriers for no gain and a world of pain. It is damaging our own economy and communities. We need the UK Government to begin discussions with the EU on a veterinary deal now.”