No-deal Brexit risks meat industry EU export delays

A no-deal Brexit could see UK livestock industries facing a disastrous situation where exports to the EU are blocked, but imports continue to flood in, farm leaders say.

This warning follows the latest round of technical notices published by the UK government on Monday (24 September).

The notices suggest that in the event of a no-deal scenario, it could take a minimum of six months for the UK to be approved by the EU as an exporter – and during this time, the EU would not accept live animals and animal products from the UK.

See also: Why Welsh sheep producers are more vulnerable to Brexit fallout

To export to the EU, export health certificates would be required from the end of March 2019, with consignments of live animals and animal products needing to travel through a border inspection post within the EU.

But Defra has acknowledged that “it cannot be certain” of the EU response to such a request or its timing. The process could take at least six months, meaning without listed status no exports to the EU could take place.

Pig and sheep industry leaders warned that such a scenario could have catastrophic consequences for sectors that rely heavily on export trade to the EU.

Pigmeat oversupply

Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said: “If exports are blocked but we continue importing pigmeat from the EU in large quantities, as the government appears willing to do, it would blow a huge hole in the economies of the UK pig sector.

“Because of carcass balance issues, the UK would be swamped with pigmeat that had little value on the domestic market, dragging down the pig price and making it very difficult for many pig businesses to continue operating.”

Need for a deal

The UK sheep sector exports about 30-35% of its production, and 96% of this goes to the EU.

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said the latest technical notices reinforced the need for the UK and EU to agree a free and frictionless trade deal.

NFU Cymru livestock board chairman Wyn Evans agreed. “Wales cannot afford to be excluded from these markets for any length of time,” he said. “All efforts must now be made to secure a deal that provides certainty on our long-term relationship with the EU and ensures that we do not face a cliff-edge Brexit.”