The BPC and ResPublica launched a new reportComing Home to Roost: The British Poultry Industry After Brexit at a roundtable in parliament on 6th September. In the report, ResPublica, a leading think-tank, identifies the main economic, societal and environmental risks to the poultry meat industry in the event of various potential Brexit scenarios. It sets out three scenarios: “Evolution” (retaining the status quo), “Trade Liberalisation” (which would see tariffs removed) and “Fortress UK”, where WTO trade tariffs would be imposed on products from the EU.

The ResPublica report, sponsored by the British Poultry Council, talks about the implications of Brexit on British poultry meat sector, highlights the ways in which a no-deal Brexit could create a two-tier food system between rich and poor, and how cheaper imports could compromise current high welfare standards.

The report also provides a series of safeguards to offset the potential risks. It suggests that Brexit must be used as an opportunity to re-focus our attention on British values, to state boldly that prioritising high standard, affordable and sustainable British produce, for all, is at the top of our agenda. It calls on the Government to adopt policies that drive productivity and job growth; protect environmental sustainability; and strengthen our food security in a post-Brexit Britain.

The parliamentary launch of the report and roundtable aimed to keep the Government as well informed as possible, to ensure food security for Britain and mitigate future risks by negotiating a trade relationship with the EU that provides the best protection for producers and consumers.

Panellists included:

  • Phillip Blond, Director, ResPublica
  • Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Minister for Business and International Trade
  • Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Chairman, Red Tractor; Business Minister 2014-2016; Treasury Minister 2016-2017
  • Richard Griffiths, Chief Executive, British Poultry Council
  • Andrew Gimson, Contributing Editor, ConservativeHome
  • Joe Cowen, Policy and Research Advisor, ResPublica (Report Author)

Key issues discussed:

  • What are the biggest challenges for the UK’s poultry meat sector after Brexit? Can these challenges be mitigated?
  • How can we ensure that imported poultry meat meets our welfare and production standards post-Brexit?
  • How can continued access to good-quality labour be secured?
  • How can productivity, innovation, and investment be increased and what are the opportunities to do so?
  • How do we ensure that our Food Values continue to be at the heart of our supply chain, and what role can public procurement play to achieve this?

Key messages from the panel:

Bill Esterson MP said:

  • “It is a timely and an excellent piece of work. The report highlights the risk of a no-deal on a crucial British food sector. It’s vital for the British poultry industry that we avoid a “No-Deal” Brexit to protect our jobs, economy and high food standard.”
  • “As the report shows, Brexit will soon affect everyday life. Urgent action must be taken to prevent ‘Fortress Britain’ from happening We need to avoid friction at borders to maintain our current high standards, which are important for our domestic and trade market.”

Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:

  • “The poultry sector has significant economic importance. The Government is implementing statutory instruments that will keep standards the same after Brexit.”
  • “I support the idea of encouraging schools and hospitals to promote higher standards by buying British poultry. It’s important to help educate consumers to eat the “whole carcase” as currently consumers prefer white meat.”
  • “With the fruit and vegetable sector having a pilot scheme for bringing in seasonal labour, there is an opportunity for special arrangement for visas for the poultry sector. There should be no great difficulty in devising such a scheme.”

Philip Blond said:

  • “If the Government is serious about making Brexit work, then it is essential that the UK finds a workable trade deal with our EU partners. If it fails then we risk creating a dangerous two-tier system, where the rich will be able to afford the increased cost of production necessary to maintain the highest standard, while those on low incomes will have little choice, but to accept poultry with inferior standards, such as chlorinated or from countries where the use of antibiotics is unregulated and unmonitored.”

Richard Griffiths said:

  • “British poultry meat farmers and producers are committed to doing everything they can to deliver a sustainable, secure and trusted supply of food, produced to world-class standards. We are keen to work together with Government to help solve the conundrum of frictionless trade with Europe, be that on regulatory alignment, the use of technology to facilitate crossing of borders, or the future of where labour is going to come from.”
  • “Can we as a country beat hunger while still providing affordable British high-quality food to world-class standards? Government should openly support British support. Things like public procurement is well within their remit. Public procurement policy should help schools and hospitals buy British. I believe that UK can have a food system that works for everyone. Industry and Government can work together to ensure healthy, nutritious and affordable British food supporting the next generation.”

Joe Cowen said:

  • “Crashing out of the EU without a deal, means we would lose much of the EU external infrastructure that allows us to monitor and inspect the food we eat and how it is prepared. While it’s possible to construct our own regulatory system, given the glacial pace of the Government around all elements of Brexit, it seems unlikely that this would happen before we are due to leave next March, exposing consumers to food produced to lower standards.”

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also shared a message of support:

  • I thank ResPublica for their comprehensive report, “Coming home to roost”, which raises important issues to be considered as we leave the EU. Our poultry meat industry is hugely important, and we are determined to get the best possible deal for the sector in the ongoing Brexit negotiations. I have been very clear that Brexit will not lead to a lowering of our high food, animal welfare and environmental standards. This will remain at the heart of our approach as we negotiate both with the EU and with new trading partners around the world.”