‘Relief’ as no-deal meat exports hurdle cleared

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Exports of live animals and animal products can continue, but businesses will have to keep on top of red tape
Exports of live animals and animal products can continue, but businesses will have to keep on top of red tape

Related tags Beef Lamb Pork Poultry

Meat trade representatives have expressed 'relief' that EU Member States have agreed the UK’s listed status to export live animals and animal products as a third country in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

The milestone still meant businesses' exporting plants had to be on the list, which the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) would upload for access by EU Border Inspection Posts by close of play on 12 April, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) told Food Manufacture​. While many factories were, as Defra had invited them to add their names months ago, some might still need to be included, it said.

According to Defra, the decision by EU Member States applies only to a no-deal Brexit on 12 April 2019. There would need to be another vote if the UK was to leave in a no-deal scenario on a different date, although the decision paves the way for a similar vote in that case.

This news will be a seen as a relief to the industry, although there is still a lot of work to be done as thousands of businesses will need to be uploaded – as we understand it – manually​,” said BMPA chief executive Nick Allen. “Let’s hope it won’t need to be enacted and that some certainty and clarity will emerge after today’s​ [10 April] summit​.”

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) welcomed the news, but recognised the work involved in uploading veterinary certificates for exports and imports. “Under a no-deal Brexit, the UK would see a significant increase in the volume of certification​,” the organisation said in a statement. “BVA has previously raised concerns about the impact that this would have at a time when the workforce is already experiencing shortfalls in capacity​.”

BVA president Simon Doherty said: “Amidst all of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the listed status application approval is a very welcome piece of news. BVA made an early call for the Government to ensure the UK achieved listed third-country status in order to avoid the nightmare scenario that no animals or animal products could be exported in a no-deal Brexit.

'Hard work'

“It is testament to the incredibly hard work of government vets across the UK, making sure that the UK meets the stringent health and biosecurity requirements to trade with EU countries.
“This announcement will bring some relief to vets and farmers who have been worried about the significant welfare and economic implications of not being able to move animals under a no-deal Brexit.”

A spokesman for the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board said: “This is good news, as it is vital to ensure trade continues.”

A spokeswoman for the Food & Drink Federation said: Our industry exports almost £14bn of UK food and drink to the EU every year. This is an encouraging step that goes some way to ensuring we can continue exporting to our most important trade partners where the EU’s prohibitively high World Trade Organisation (WTO) Most Favoured Nation tariffs do not price UK products out of the market.

'Significant questions'

“Significant questions remain, however, in particular for movements of goods on the island of Ireland, where these products often cross the border multiple times during the manufacturing process. UK businesses may still face significant challenges where they export food and drink containing EU ingredients of animal origin back in to the EU.

“We will continue to work with Government to ensure our members get the answers they need.”

The confirmation of the agreement to the UK’s listed status application was part of the EU’s published no-deal contingency planning, according to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). Without it, exports of animal products and most live animals to the EU could not take place from 12 April in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

National Farmers Union

National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Minette Batters said: “It is reassuring to hear that the UK now has third country listing in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which confirms that the UK has met the necessary animal health and biosecurity assurances required to export live animals and animal products to the EU.

“However, we must not lose sight that if the UK does leave the EU without a deal our exports to EU countries will still face significant barriers and the imposition of high tariffs. Entire sectors such as organics and potatoes still face effective trade embargoes.

“Even with third country listing, a no-deal Brexit could have catastrophic impacts on food and farming in Britain.

“Over 60% of British agri-food exports go to the EU so it is essential that we maintain a close relationship with our biggest international trading partner – one that is as free and frictionless as possible.”

'High standards'

Food and animal welfare minister David Rutley said: “This is good news for UK businesses. It demonstrates our very high standards of biosecurity and animal health, which we will continue to maintain after we leave the EU. 

“If you or your business import or export animals and animal products or imports high-risk food, then I urge you to visit our guidance pages on www.gov.uk​ for what you need to do to be ready to continue to trade post-Brexit.

“Our top priority remains delivering a negotiated deal, but it is the job of a responsible Government to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios, including a no-deal.”

The EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) confirmed the acceptance of the UK’s listed status application on 9 April. National listed status is the EU’s classification for non-member states and the UK’s application, submitted in November 2018, has passed the high criteria on biosecurity measures for animal health and food hygiene.

Export guidance

UK exports of animals and their products to the EU would still need to go through an EU Border Inspection Post and businesses would still require an Export Health Certificate (EHC) and meet its requirements, Defra said. Its guidance continues to be to send an EHC with the export consignment, and to send a copy of the EHC to the EU importer.

With listed status now confirmed, exporters would need to follow EU rules for exports from third countries to the EU. Guidance for importers​ and exporters​ is available on gov.UK.

If the UK left the EU with an agreed deal, it would not need to be listed during the implementation period. To give certainty to businesses and citizens, common rules would remain in place until the end of the implementation period, meaning businesses could trade on the same terms as now up until the end of 2020.

Defra has confirmed that businesses importing live animals, germinal products and certain animal products into the UK would retain access to the TRAde Control and Expert System (TRACES) in any Brexit scenario until later this year. That would minimise disruption for them, it said. TRACES is the system used by importers to notify authorities of such imports from non-EU countries.


Imports from non-EU countries would need to go through the UK’s new Import of Animals, Products, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS) from the point at which the UK left the EU.

The Government’s latest Brexit guidance for businesses is available here: https://euexit.campaign.gov.uk/

A full list of EU border inspection posts is available on the European Commission’s website​.

The UK submitted its application for listing as a third country to continue exporting live animals and animal products to the EU after Brexit in November 2018.

The Commission’s published Contingency Action Plan stated that: “On the basis of the EU veterinary legislation, the Commission will – if justified – swiftly ʻlistʼ the UK, if all applicable conditions are fulfilled, so as to allow the entry of live animals and animal products from the UK into the EU​.”

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