CIEH supports urgent call for new veterinary agreement in new report

10 June 2021, Heidi Douglas-Osborn

CIEH supports the urgent call for a new veterinary agreement to combat Brexit agreement restrictions, which have caused a sharp drop in British exports to the EU.

A new report Minimising SPS Friction in EU Trade, published today, highlights a number of recommendations to Government to ensure that UK businesses exporting food and feed can continue to operate in a viable way and support the fragile post pandemic economic recovery.

The Office of National Statistics reports a sharp drop in exports - a decrease of £8.9 billion to £137 billion in the first quarter of 2021, significantly impacting the viability of businesses in Great Britain. This is having a profound negative impact on the amount of food exported to the EU.

The cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission will be examining this at its evidence session today on a potential EU-UK veterinary agreement, where they will hear from CIEH and others including the British Veterinary Association, British Poultry Council and the National Farmers Union.

British exporters over the last five months have faced serious difficulties with post-Brexit red tape and disruption at the UK-EU border. The new relationship between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021, 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.

Businesses are working incredibly hard to navigate these new barriers but Government help is needed. The SPS Certification Working Group, representing industry, the veterinary and environmental health professions, are calling 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, the EU and NI when full SPS import controls take effect in 2022

The report also 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.

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. Especially since the situation is likely to get much worse next year when full import controls take effect.

Gary McFarlane, Director of CIEH Northern Ireland, said:

“It is important that alternative markets and trade deals are created to compensate for the loss of trade and income to our sectors that came from our EU market share.

Part of this is to negotiate a form of mutual veterinary agreement with the European Union, which would ease the problems of trading food and feed between Great Britain and the EU, Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and from EU to Great Britain, when import controls take effect.

It is important that the Government acts to implement SPS’s recommendations and resolve the severe restrictions to exports that have arisen post-Brexit.”

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