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British meat industry highlights weaknesses in Brexit preparations

08 September 2020

New meat industry campaign exposes glaring weaknesses in Brexit preparations that puts £1.2 billion in trade at risk

Despite reassurances from the UK's Prime Minister last week that “we’re ready for any eventuality”, the reality is is that many key issues remain unresolved. Brexit contingency preparations are proceeding at a snail’s pace and the UK Government’s "Brexit Report Card" to date reveals some glaring weaknesses in an export system that is about to become massively overloaded.

Unless a number of key issues are urgently addressed, £1.2 billion of annual meat exports will be at risk along with thousands of jobs in the meat and livestock sector.

The Chief Executive of the British Meat Processors Association, Nick Allen said: “After months of meetings and talks with Government which have yielded little progress, the British meat industry, along with other sectors that rely on overseas trade, has lost patience and we are calling publicly for Government to step up the pace and solve these issues before it is too late.”

“With less than four months to go Britain has a woeful lack of infrastructure and people to operate the new export system which if not addressed, will result in massive delays, extra cost and lost orders.”

What needs immediate action

These are things that will need to happen regardless of whether or not we get a deal, and if not addressed have the ability to severely damage the UK meat export market.

Export health certificates

Currently, of all the consignments of meat products dispatched from the UK each year, only those to "Third Countries" require Export Health Certificates. This represents a tiny percentage of the total number of consignments leaving the country as the remainder are delivered to EU countries, often as smaller mixed loads known as "groupage".

After 31 December all consignments, including those to the EU, will require an Export Health Certificate, meaning the system will have to cope with a flood of new applications. We need firm assurances from Government that the new system we have been promised will be up and running at full capacity by the end of the year.

Not enough vets

Because all meat exports after 31 December, including those to the EU will require an Export Health Certificate, this also means that every overseas consignment from every meat plant across the country will need to be inspected by an Official Veterinarian prior to dispatch. Currently only third country exports require this.

There are simply not enough trained vets in the UK to cover this additional workload and we need the Government to tell us how they are going to resolve this issue.

Health & ID marks

If we want to continue exporting meat after 31 December we need definitive confirmation that the new Government proposed Health Marks, which are used to certify the export standard, have been agreed with all our trading partners. Without this nothing can be exported. In reality we risk losing orders from September onwards because of the 3 to 4-month lead times involved. Those orders will be scooped up by Britain’s competitors.

Groupage (the convenience of mixed loads of products)

Deliveries of meat destined for the EU currently makes use of the fact that small, regular consignments can be grouped together into big ones and sent off on a daily basis, which is both cost effective and reduces waste.

After 31 December this option will not be available because Government guidelines state that groupage of fresh and frozen meat is not allowed to third countries, which the EU will by then become. If this doesn’t change and UK companies can no longer use groupage, they will be at a significant competitive disadvantage and very likely lose orders.

The BMPA's message to the Government is that this is not good enough. They have had four years to prepare and have known all along that these technical issues will need to be addressed regardless of whether or not we get a deal. We’re now less than four months from the end of the transition period and we can’t stay silent on the lack of progress any longer.



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