Three European food and farming organisations have called for an extenstion on the post-Brexit transition period to avoid a cliff edge exit at the end of the year, should trade negotiations fail.
Copa and Cogeca, Celcaa and FoodDrinkEurope are particularly concerned about the limited amount of time available in which to conclude and ratify a trade deal. “We regret that the UK government is currently opposed to any extension of the post-Brexit transition period beyond 2020,” the organisations said in a joint statement. “The transition should be of sufficient length for businesses to plan and prepare for any FTA arrangements, and to avoid a cliff-edge situation.”
The groups urged both parties to consider alternative, temporary arrangements that could be implemented from the start of 2021 should it not prove possible to conclude an FTA this year. “Such temporary arrangements, which would need to preserve tariff and quota free trade, would afford additional time for negotiators while minimising disruption for operators already coping with significant impacts of COVID-19,” they said.
The combination of no agreement and no extension of transitional arrangements would have significant negative consequences for the EU agri-food sector, the statement said. “These can be expected to include a major decrease in export volumes from the EU to the UK, a significant fall in revenue, and consequential job losses. The impact on SMEs, farmers and agri-co-operatives would be particularly detrimental.
“In view of the stocktaking exercise foreseen for later in June, we hope our concerns will be considered and that the negotiation process will move forward in a swift and constructive manner. Looking at the ambition and significant level of consensus yet to be found, we strongly encourage both parties to agree on sufficient time to achieve a high-quality outcome that will preserve a level playing field and an optimal result for both parties.”
The UK and EU is currently negotiating its future relationship and is in the fourth round of talks.
EU agri-food trade with the UK amounted to €58 billion in 2019. The groups are concerned the failure to conclude a zero tariff, zero quota FTA would have serious consequences for the agri-food sector both in the EU and the UK.
“The introduction of tariffs, combined with the potential for regulatory divergence, would severely disrupt integrated supply chains; our priorities for a bilateral trade agreement focus on limiting that disruption. Specifically, it is essential that the future EU-UK relationship ensures,” the groups said.