Hard Brexit ‘crisis’ for European meat industry

A report by Europe’s meat industry body UECBV has highlighted the “catastrophic” impact of a hard Brexit on the European meat industry. 

According to the report, Crisis – The EU Meat Industry in a Hard Brexit scenario, if Great Britain cannot reach a deal with the EU27, the value of EU meat production will decrease by €2.4bn for the beef sector and €2.3bn for the pork sector annually.

The report modelled the impact of a hard Brexit on trade between UK and EU for meat products and found trade could be reduced by up to 84% for beef, 76% for sheep meat and 48% for pig meat. It predicts that UK to EU meat exports could fall by as much as 90%.

It also predicts that trade will decrease by up to 84% with over 32,000 jobs at risk. It said: “The magnitude of shock of a hard Brexit would be significantly greater than the industry crisis created by the Russian food import ban in 2014, and it would be much more difficult to find alternative markets for diverted products.”

The report also warned that meat products would face greater burdens than almost any other sector, including higher World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs than any other sector, additional costs of veterinary checks, in addition to the customs checks faced by all goods and major disruption to supply chains and chaos for just-in-time fresh meat delivery systems.

To help avoid this “catastrophic” situation, the UECBV recommended:

  • A timely and sufficiently long transitional period to allow businesses to adjust to new arrangements
  • A future trading relationship that creates minimal burden for business, especially SMEs, and maintains current trading conditions as much as possible
  • Ensuring continued regulatory convergence between the UK and EU
  • Implementing market support mechanisms, including increased market access, internationally simplified transit systems, and vital investment in port facilities.

Philippe Borremans, chairman of UECBV said: “A hard Brexit represents the greatest threat to European producers, consumers and processors of meat, with a potential impact much greater than the Russian import ban. By potentially cutting off one of the largest and highest-value meat markets in Europe, Brexit threatens to be catastrophic for industry across Europe and the UK. In this worst-case scenario, in which no deal between the EU and the UK is agreed, the impact to the meat sector will be devastating, due to the particular exposure of this sector to tariff burden, additional veterinary costs and increased customs and transport checks and associated logistics disruption.

“The findings contained in this report confirm our worst fears: a hard Brexit would send shock waves through the whole European meat industry, destroying jobs, increasing consumer prices, and devastating the livelihoods of small business owners working in our sector. The scale of this crisis is simply too great to ignore, and we implore policymakers to follow through on recommendations put forward in this report and to protect this vital European food sector.”

In response to the report, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) said: “In relation to both potential solutions, SAMW welcomes UECBV’s highly informed and knowledgeable input and would urge EU and UK negotiators alike to address the issues raised in the report.

“Our challenge to the UK and Scottish governments is to pursue a plan which maximises the advantages and opportunities that will arise throughout the duration of the UK’s Brexit transition, and which establishes a production and business platform for post-EU Britain that will enable the industry to grow its domestic and export markets.

“In detailing the Brexit-based risks and threats to Europe’s red meat industry, the UECBV report highlights the vital need for negotiators to deliver a fair and balanced deal which is acceptable to both sides. While the UK clearly needs the EU as a long-term trading partner, the same definitely applies to the EU’s need for a lasting trading partnership with the UK.

“SAMW urges negotiators and politicians in the EU and UK to study this report and address the issues raised in a new spirit of communication and cooperation.”

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