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UK meat processors fear permanent damage to trade with EU

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Lorries queue at border control for the port of Dover. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Lorries queue at border control for the port of Dover. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Lorries queue at border control for the port of Dover. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

British meat processors fear losing as much as 25pc of their pre-Brexit EU trade as a result of 'massive increase' in trade friction since January 1.

They also said concessions from the EU could only be achieved when EU exporters have to 'jump through the same hoops'.

It comes as a new survey of UK meat processors indicated that EU red meat exports were running at no better than 50pc of pre-Brexit volumes in the first 6 weeks of 2021. Many, if not most, were operating well below this level at 30 to 40pc of pre-Brexit levels and some at zero.

The research carried out by the British Meat Processors Association said while the situation had improved since January, some of the core issues were 'systemic' and will lead to a longer-term, 'possibly permanent', loss of trade with the EU.

"Even the most optimistic exporters are talking about 15pc, and most around the 25pc mark as an estimate as to what this long-term loss of trade might be; some fear this is much higher," Peter Hardwick BMPA Trade Policy Adviser said.

The loss of groupage, the haulage practice by which goods dispatched by several different companies are grouped together, has had a massive effect and broadly, the costs of exporting have doubled in most cases.

"The loss of groupage has had a massive effect and, broadly, the costs of exporting have doubled in most cases. Increased costs include the costs of certification, customs procedures and clearance and the corresponding charges from agents and increased charges from hauliers," he said.

Hardwick said he fears many of the issues cannot be fixed.

"It is the direct consequence of the radical change in our trading relationship with the EU and the nature of the part of the trade that may be permanently lost can't be redirected to distant markets," he said.

However, he said whatever changes can be made requires "our EU friends to share and experience the disruption once they have to jump through the same hoops".

He highlighted that the date for the implementation of full checks on EU meat entering the UK was put back by 6 months and said this undermined any leverage the UK may have had to secure EU cooperation in reducing trade friction.

"This is the only way this will happen," he said.


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