The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has urged the Government to provide clarity on Brexit trading arrangements amid fears meat exports could be compromised by delays in securing Third Country status.
In order to continue selling meat and other food products into the EU after the transition ends on December 31, the UK will need to be formally listed as a Third Country by the EU. Each individual food manufacturing plant will then need to be formally approved as well. It’s up to the EU whether or not it requires a physical inspection of each and every plant.
If inspections are required, this could see British food manufacturers waiting in line for formal listing before they can export anything further to the EU. The longer they have to wait, the more orders will be lost, the BMPA warned.
BMPA chief executive Nick Allen said: “While a request has been submitted by the UK, there is currently no firm indication as to when the EU will consider and vote on formal country approval, let alone when and if plant inspections will be done.
“It’s highly unlikely that the EU will refuse us Third Country status. The bigger question is when it will be granted and how much damage to our food businesses and supply chains will be done in the process.”
The BMPA explained that in order to give the UK approval as a Third Country, in the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s words, the EU ‘needs to know in full what a country’s rules are, [including] for imports. The same objective process applies to all listed countries’.
Recent speculation over whether or not Boris Johnson’s government will relax import rules and standards in order to do a deal with the US may well have prompted the EU to re-assess the Third Country approval they gave us in August last year, the BMPA added.
The association stressed that Third Country status was ‘just one thing that could throw a spanner in the works and prevent us from exporting product to the EU’. Others potentially include issues like new export certification requirements and the uncertainty over Health Marks that has not yet been addressed by the UK Government.
Mr Allen added: “We need all of this to happen urgently, otherwise British firms will start losing orders from this month onwards for product due for delivery in the new year.”