The UK could lose billions of pounds worth of revenue from the sale of products like Cornish pasties, Welsh lamb and Bramley apples within the EU if they were to lose their protections under EU law, according to business consultancy Informa.
A trade deal between the UK and EU would likely initially include continuation of protection for GI products, but if it does not, a reciprocal agreement would require the UK re-registering its products as a third country using the EU GI system.
Compete with imitations
Should these protections be lost, UK food producers would face potential competition from similar products from non-EU countries as well as the EU. Key UK exports, like Scotch whisky, would have to compete with imitations that shared their names.
Under EU law, geographical food names cannot be sold by foreign producers that have no link to the corresponding region.
Chris Horseman, EU policy consultant to Informa’s Agribusiness Intelligence division, said: “It is quite possible that one or more of the UK’s future trade partners might require Britain to accept the import of products which are produced in the country in question under a name for which the EU claims unique marketing rights.
“The UK would then need to decide whether the commercial and political benefit of acceding to such a request would outweigh the diplomatic fallout of over-riding any post-Brexit agreement to keep the EU’s GIs protected on the UK market.”
Outweigh the diplomatic fallout
In November last year, the UK had 69 registered GIs with the EU. The prices earned by GI products were, on average, 2.23 times as high as the same quantity of non-GI products – a third of sales were within the EU.
Not long after the UK’s vote to leave the EU, analyst Mlex warned the markets could be swarmed with “knock-offs” of classic regional British foods.
However, Mlex said that the UK could be in a better position to negotiate the protection of geographical identity of its products outside of the EU, where it would not have to fight for “elbow room” with “the French, Italians and Greeks pushing for numerous cheeses to be protected”.