Brexit border checks continue to hamper food exports, government figures show

New Brexit checks introduced in January are continuing to restrict trade between the UK and EU, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics.

The data, published on Tuesday, show that during February overall UK exports to the EU bounced back partially from the slump in January, but volumes remain well below 2020 levels. Total exports from the UK to EU were up 47% on the previous month after a record drop of 42% in January.

After plummeting to just £400m in January, exports of food and live animals recovered to £700m in February, although this remains 29% below the £900m the UK exported to the EU in February 2020.

The data for meat and meat preparations showed an even larger deficit, with exports to the EU down 42% on the previous year:

  • Feb 2019: £115m
  • Feb 2020: £113m
  • Feb 2021: £66m

(Export value to the EU of Meat and Meat Preparations, Office of National Statistics, 13 April 2021)

Farming unions and the British Poultry Council have urged the government to work with the EU to align the two blocs’ sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards to ease problems with exporting meat and breeding stock. The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) last month warned trade disruption at the borders is not simply ‘teething problems’ and claimed the additional cost to the UK meat industry per year to trade with the EU as being between £90-120 million as a result of an increase in certification costs for each export consignment.

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