Industry leaders call for SPS alignment to ease Brexit export difficulties

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.

Since 1 January, the UK’s new status as a third country means all consignments of meat and products of animal origins are subject to new paperwork and veterinary checks. It also means that when the UK has an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, all exports of poultry products are halted to the EU.

The Commission is able to vote on restricting exports from the region directly affected rather than the whole UK, but during the time it takes to hold the vote, the trade is blocked. This is having a “big impact on meat and breeding stock,” Richard Griffiths, BPC chief executive told Poultry Business.

An UK-EU SPS agreement would be welcomed by the sector, said Griffiths. “It would ease some of the current trade difficulties.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) also said it would back an agreement in principle that would align the UK as a whole to the EU’s agri-food SPS standards. It would significantly help minimise trade friction from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and vice versa, solving many of the disruptive issues that the NI agri-food industry has been experiencing since the implementation of the NI Protocol on 1 January 2021.

“Since the Brexit referendum result the UFU has been lobbying to achieve the best possible outcome for NI farmers,” said UFU president Victor Chestnutt. “Our aim has always been focused on ensuring free and frictionless trade could continue east/west and north/south. Aligning the UK’s agri-food standards with the EU’s would straighten out a lot of the trade issues that we have been burdened with since the beginning of the year. It would do away with a large percentage of the physical and documentary checks that are currently required, helping to ensure agri-food products and livestock can continue moving, flowing as freely as possible from GB to NI without extra complications and costs.

“Aligning the entire UK with the EU in the area of SPS standards would help improve what has become an absolute trading nightmare for many of our farmers.”

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