By Stef Bottinelli
A report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, chaired by Conservative MP Neil Parish, is urging the Government to enter into further discussions with the EU about border checks and red-tape requirements when trading with Europe.
Non-tariff barriers are affecting the British seafood and meat industry – in particular small and medium-sized seafood and meat enterprises – who are no longer finding trading with the EU a viable option.
Non-tariff barriers were introduced on 1 January following the Brexit agreement. Prior to this date there were no border checks or red tape requirements for British exporters to Europe. The report found that ‘Government data for January 2021 showed that food and live animal exports to the EU were 63% lower than in December 2020. In contrast, exports to non-EU countries were 14% lower over the same period.’
Several British SMEs are currently looking into moving their businesses to Europe to circumnavigate non-tariff barriers, or stopping exports to the EU altogether – the latter a move that could have some serious financial repercussions.
Brexit and the trading agreement between the UK and the EU has created challenges for many British businesses, but the worst affected have been those who export fresh produce, such as the seafood and meat industry. These enterprises must now undergo Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks and their exports must be certified with an Export Health Certificate (EHc). Completing the EHCs and other required paperwork is time-consuming and can significantly delay the shipment of live or fresh seafood and meat exports.
The EFRA report states that businesses only had a week to familiarise themselves with the new trading agreement ahead of 1 January and the Government’s guidance ‘was not sufficiently timely, targeted or joined-up, and engagement with businesses could have been closer’.
The report also expresses concern that many businesses might decide to move to Europe or stop trading with the EU. ‘Many of these “teething problems” are now being resolved but the new non-tariff barriers introduced by Brexit continue to hinder businesses, in particular SMEs, exporting seafood and meat to the EU. Without action some businesses will relocate activity to the EU or stop exporting to Europe.’ .
EFRA has made the following recommendations to the Government:
• As a matter of priority seek agreement with the EU on digitising the certification of EHCs;
• take a flexible approach to the fund for those exporting seafood and provide similar support to meat exporters;
• support SMEs with the cost of certifying EHCs;
• facilitate logistical approaches that allow consignments from SMEs to be grouped together on a single lorry load, thereby reducing costs;
The full report can be downloaded from the Parliament website.