Protecting British standards must be at the core of all trade negotiations, according to witnesses at the UK Trade and Business Commission’s evidence session held on Thursday 10th June.

The evidence session on the potential of securing an EU-UK Veterinary Agreement, chaired by Sir Roger Gale MP, was attended by a number of organisations across the food and drink sector, including British Poultry Council Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths; James Russell, President of the British Veterinary Association; Gary McFarlane, Director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in Northern Ireland; and Gail Soutar, Chief EU Exit and International Trade Adviser of the NFU.

This comes after the British Poultry Council, as part of the SPS Certification Working Group, called on the Government to resolve the ongoing trade friction through an EU-UK Veterinary Agreement to ensure equivalence of standards to ease difficulties in trading food between Great Britain, the EU and Northern Ireland. You can read more about the work of the SPS Certification Working Group here.

The session offered witnesses a platform to air business-critical issues surrounding the trade of animal products to and from the UK post-EU exit. Recommendations on how to improve the trading landscape, including a potential EU-UK Veterinary Agreement, were discussed. Witnesses highlighted the critical need for the Government to ‘engage constructively with the EU’ to ‘reduce trade friction’ and noted the impact on business viability.

British poultry meat businesses have been working incredibly hard to mitigate barriers to put safe, affordable, and nutritious food on every table. Time-consuming checks at the border have resulted in meat exports to the EU dropping sharply, with overall poultry exports decreasing in value by 69% in the first quarter of the year in addition to significantly impacting business viability. BPC Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths likened the industry’s trading experiences post-EU exit to ‘firefighting’. With Britain being deemed a ‘third country’ on 1st January 2021, British businesses have “had to become good at fixing problems” given that they have faced a number of requirements on imports, including international sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls according to Richard Griffiths.

Whilst the situation has slightly improved, the BPC, as part of the SPS Certification Working Group, urge the Government to help the sector find a permanent solution to this ongoing challenge. “We cannot keep firefighting; it is simply not sustainable,” BPC Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said. He added, “The bureaucracy of ‘third country’ trading is eroding the capability and profitability of exporting products of animal origin to the EU and NI. If exporting sectors, including poultry meat, are to survive and thrive under Global Britain’s established Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), new ways of managing the system must be arranged to secure the viability of British business going forward.” 

“Government must engage with the EU to build a system that works for exporters rather than against them. Without Government’s support towards investments in sufficient resources and systems, we can expect a detrimental impact on the sustainability of British poultry meat businesses, as well as our ability to carry on feeding the nation.”

There was a shared understanding amongst the group that securing an EU-UK Veterinary Agreement would help protect food and environment standards whilst ensuring a fair competition amongst exporters and supporting agile trade.

You can watch a recording of the session in full here.

About the UK Trade and Business Commission

The UK Trade and Business Commission was set up post-EU exit to review the UK’s trading and business environment and make recommendations to the UK Government for a better future for Britain. The Commission brings together business, cross-party political and trading expertise. The Commission takes written evidence and holds oral evidence sessions with expert witnesses representing a range of voices representing the different sectors of the UK economy. Evidence provided will be used to make regular recommendations to the Government outlining how the UK’s trading landscape can be improved, both through new and amended deals and negotiations. Meetings and evidence sessions are chaired by members of the Commission on a rotating basis. Read more information on their website: UK Trade and Business Commission.