No need to panic over Brexit just yet

Rob ShelleySince Britain voted to leave the EU, a tsunami of panic has been unleashed, with politicians and commentators mixing spin, opportunism, mis-information and occasional facts to nourish the national unease. It’s easy to forget we have only voted to leave the governing machine of the EU, yet otherwise we remain part of Europe. 

Trade with Europe is important for Britain - £227bn of our exports go across the channel, with £288bn imported in return. In this marketplace, we readily trade meat and livestock free of import tariffs (the additional paperwork and clearance time for access to Switzerland for example, speaks for itself).

Once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked, urgent re-negotiations will ensue, given that 45% of all UK exports go to Europe. Our future European relations rest in the success of these negotiations - time will tell if any punitive tariffs might be imposed.

The cost of compliance and regulation, wherever it comes from, is a perennial concern for businesses. Open Europe recently estimated the cost to the UK of fulfilling the 100 most hard-to-meet EU regulations was a staggering £33bn a year.

In the unlikely event we reduce our trading with Europe, the UK’s rigorous standards, particularly those surrounding animal welfare and food safety, will mean that sourcing alternate markets (such as Brazil and the US) to match these standards, will not be a swift process.

So, what’s on the horizon? In the short term, the weak pound will undoubtedly bolster meat exports, although UK consumers will see an upward pressure on meat prices. As an appetiser, the UK exported 54,000 tonnes of pig meat to China in 2015, making it the UK’s largest importer of pork. The focus is now on opening up China to our beef and lamb exports, and other lucrative markets such as Japan, the US, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Mexico.

Whatever happens, opportunities are there when the panic stops and we begin to explore a planned strategy to exploit world markets. Amidst the uncertainty, working with a freight forwarder that you can trust to assure optimum performance from your meat imports and exports is now more important than ever.

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