Brexit: pressure on Government to address industry fears

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

There are 55 days until the end of the Brexit transition period
There are 55 days until the end of the Brexit transition period

Related tags Meat & Seafood Supply chain Regulation Packaging & labelling

Pressure is mounting on Government from Scottish trade bodies and the House of Lords to address food industry fears about organic food and exports.

Lord Kinnoull, chair of the House of Lords EU Select Committee, has written to Victoria Prentis, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs. He is seeking clarification on the status of organic food from Great Britain sold in the EU.

The letter states: "We are concerned about the ability of Great Britain’s organics producers to continue exporting their products, marketed as organic, to the EU and Northern Ireland after 1 January 2021.

"Please provide an update on the negotiations for a UK-EU organics equivalence agreement. If there is no UK-EU organics equivalence agreement that results in the UK being listed in the relevant EU Regulation annex, UK control bodies will need to be recognised by the EU for this trade to continue.

"We would be grateful for an update on the status of the UK control bodies’ applications for EU recognition, and on the Government’s conversations with the European Commission regarding these applications."

The letter, dated 4 November, requests a response within ten days.

Scottish food and drink trade letter

Meanwhile, 11 Scottish food and drink organisations have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for four principal actions from Government.

The letter requests a six-month grace period from the end of the transition period to allow businesses to adjust to new export rules. The signatories also want a commitment to bring forward a package of financial compensation for producers, processors, manufacturers and distributors who suffer losses due to border or market disruption.

They also call on the Government to finalise operational arrangements for enabling the smooth passage for seafood consignments across the Channel and other ports, under Operation Brock. And it asks Government to add food and drink sector roles to the Scottish Shortage Occupation List and support seasonal and remote workers to facilitate the continuation of overseas labour where necessary. 

The letter concludes: "With less than 60 days until the UK enters into new historic trading arrangements, time is not on our side and there is an enormous task that lies ahead to get businesses ready and support them through the coming months.

"We are sure you do not underestimate the scale of this challenge and the unique combination of concerns facing our sector, the businesses within it and the people whose livelihoods depend upon it. It is vital that the UK Government stands ready and willing to support our industry in the months ahead and we urge your Government to agree to the measures we have articulated above."

Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW)

The SAMW, one of the letter's signatories, separately added more detail around arrangements for the meat trade. It called for:

  • a UK Government-funded buy-back scheme covering any red meat products which are despatched for sale in the EU market, but which are subsequently seriously delayed at customs, resulting in them becoming unsaleable;
  • suspension of cost recovery as applied to official controls regarding red meat processing while the UK Government reviews how food & feed law enforcement by central and local government is funded;
  • intervention support in the event of the UK meat market becoming over-supplied due to disrupted exports into the EU to help prevent livestock prices crashing;
  • assistance with costs relating to new Export Health Certificates for the first six months of 2021 while market and trade flows adjust to new border inspection protocols;
  • extension of the rate relief scheme to larger businesses who have incurred significant COVID-19 compliance costs.

There are now 55 days until the Brexit transition period ends and UK Government negotiations with the EU have not yet concluded.

Signatories of the letter from Scottish food bodies

Scotland Food & Drink, ​James Withers, chief executive

Food and Drink Federation Scotland, ​David Thomson, chief executive

National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, ​Scott Walker, chief executive

Quality Meat Scotland, ​Alan Clarke, chief executive

Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, ​Tim Bailey, chief executive

SAMW, ​Martin Morgan, executive manager

Scottish Bakers, ​Alasdair Smith, chief executive

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, ​Tavish Scott, chief executive designate

Scottish Seafood Association, ​Jimmy Buchan, chief executive

Scottish Wholesale Association, ​Colin Smith, chief executive

Seafood Scotland, ​Donna Fordyce, head of Seafood Scotland

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