The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has described the UK Government’s decision to allow imports from the EU to circumvent checks until the autumn as a blow for many UK producers, and an own goal in terms of the UK’s negotiating position over improvements that would help UK exporters.
While thorough checks have been in place for UK food exports to the EU since 1st January 2021, equivalent checks on food products imported from the EU were due to be introduced from 1st April following a transition period to allow importers to adjust to the UK’s departure from the EU Single Market.
However, the UK Government announced on 11th March that pre-notification requirements for products of animal origin, certain animal by-products and high risk food not of animal origin would not be required until 1st October 2021. Export health certificate requirements for meat and dairy products and certain animal by-products will come into force on the same date, while a range of other requirements have been delayed until 2022.
UK borders are currently operating like valves that make it extremely difficult and costly for exports to the EU due to the paperwork and bureaucracy at EU borders, yet it’s extremely easy for those in the EU to import into the UK because the UK Government has waived the need for equivalent checks at our own borders.
Many farmers and processors are extremely frustrated that the playing field has been far from even since 1st January and that the UK Government has now extended this advantage for EU businesses by at least another six months due to their failings to prepare for its own hard-Brexit policy.
Meanwhile, the latest figures show that UK food exports to the EU fell by 64% - and by more than 90% for some products - in January due to non-tariff barriers from day one.
There is now much less of an incentive for the EU to quickly reach agreement with the UK on easing the flow of products across the EU-UK border. Although the extension brings advantages for some UK businesses, we should not be in a position whereby extensions are being extended due to the lack of planning and foresight by the UK Government while businesses are suffering unfair competition.