Echoing calls for an SPS agreement, “the longer the issues with EU trade go on, the harder it will be to address them,” warns BPC Chief Executive.

Ongoing asymmetry in UK-EU trade threatens to push up food prices in the UK, BPC Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, told attendees at new conference Trade Unlocked.

This week Trade Unlocked – supported by UK Trade and Business Commission and Best for Britain – brought together parliamentarians, businesses leaders and trade experts to build the blueprint for modern trade and boost growth to deliver a better future for all people in the UK.

That blueprint for trade must be underpinned by a shared set of standards that provide certainty and consistency for poultry meat businesses. In a panel session on Standards and Regulation, Mr Griffiths said: “We need equality in trade. If we are to move forward as a sovereign nation, we need Government to get serious about developing a set of standards they believe in and keep at the heart of trade. Only then will we have an opportunity to build positive relationships with trading partners.”

For poultry meat exporters it is certainty and consistency that are key to a profitable and sustainable food system. On the repeated failure to implement full controls on product entering UK from EU, Mr Griffiths, said: “Import checks have been postponed four times in two years, costing BPC members millions. The current system, that some industries are yet to feel the full weight of, is adding to already soaring production costs and eroding business viability. The longer disparity in UK-EU trade goes on, the harder it will get to address it.”

Safe, affordable, nutritious poultry is half the meat the nation eats but additional administration and red tape has cost exporters well over £100 million since 1 January 2021. EU exporters have paid £0 and continue to enjoy a competitive advantage. The lack of a level playing field, combined with a Government that “is not defending our food standards,” is penalising poultry meat businesses and adding to inflating production costs, “threatening to undercut domestic production with cheaper imports and push up food prices in the UK amid a cost-of-living crisis,” Mr Griffiths told attendees.

In recent weeks BPC have highlighted the impact of rising production costs on producers, where a lack of market returns is forcing production to scale back. “It is vital that our standards aren’t dropped in pursuit of filling gaps on shop shelves that retailers aren’t willing to pay a fair price for. Imported poultry must meet our standards as condition of entry. That’s what a fair approach to import checks with EU guarantees: a level playing field for UK-EU trade recognises our standards, backs our farmers and food producers, and ensures safe, affordable, and nutritious food for all.

Mr Griffiths added, “We all want to avoid the stress additional checks pose to food supply; exporting sectors and industries like our own have suffered the pains of Brexit, those so-called ‘teething problems,’ since day one. But the ongoing impact of an unlevel playing field is just as big a problem for accessible and affordable food. If ensuring quality food for all is the priority then levelling the playing field across industries, sectors and entire nations must take precedence.

The cost of not having fair and reciprocated checks is greater than the burdens that come with them – particularly in the absence of an SPS Agreement, in which those burdens could be addressed, and checks potentially scrapped altogether to let trade flow freely in both directions.”