By Mark Williams, chief executive, British Egg Industry Council
As we move towards the General Election on 12 December, whether you love or hate politics, no one can argue that these are not interesting times.
What colour, or indeed shades of colour, will form the next government will have implications for our industry. The Labour Party has previously stated they want an end to all cage systems across farming, which would not only affect enriched colony cages, but also rearing cages, albeit the proportion of these is much lower than it was 10 years ago.
Will other parties do similar? We can also expect pressure to remain on ending beak treatment. Here, via the Laying Hen Welfare Forum we continue to make progress on developing Feather Cover Action Plans and have been active in sharing best practice at various meetings. I would urge you to look at the LHWF website to see some of the excellent work that is being carried out.
It is also interesting to hear TV interviews with voters, with many seeing this as a Brexit election. If there is one thing British agriculture, and the egg industry needs, it is clarity on Brexit. This can be said of many sectors, if not all of the British economy.
If the General Election does return a Conservative majority government and passes the necessary legislation for the Withdrawal Agreement to take effect, then we urge the Government to focus its efforts on securing a free trade agreement with the EU that protects our high standards. Unless the transition period is extended once the Withdrawal Agreement comes into place, two years to negotiate a free trade agreement will be incredibly challenging, but it is vital we do not leave the EU without one in place.
Similarly, if there is an outcome other than a Conservative majority government, we would urge quick and decisive action on which path regarding Brexit the UK is going to take, so issues such as access to labour for example, can be resolved. With 30% of our farm workers and 50% of those in packing centres being EU migrants, for an all-year-round industry it is of paramount importance.
The BEIC has continued to lobby the devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales, now that we are in purdah and policy announcements cannot be made by the UK government.
The issues our industry faces regarding shell egg and whole egg powder was brought up in a debate in the Scottish Parliament on tariffs with the US after Brexit, due to our engagement with ministers and MSPs there.
The Telegraph also ran a detailed business piece on the UK government’s approach to tariffs and their impact on our industry after we spoke with journalists there. We have also written to parliamentary candidates across the country, congratulating them on their selection as candidates, setting out our position and asking for their support.
We continue to lobby politicians on import tariffs, as it is vital that if we are to maintain the high standards of bird welfare our consumers expect, no imports should be allowed into this country unless they are produced to the same standard.