The House of Commons cross-party EFRA Committee has written to Defra Secretary of State George Eustice, urging pragmatism to ease friction in the meat and seafood trade between Great Britain and the EU, which it said would also benefit the movement of food to Northern Ireland. The letter is published alongside the Government’s response to the Committee’s April 2021 Report, Seafood and Meat Exports to the EU.
With considerable extra paperwork and checks at the EU border now a day-to-day reality for highly time-sensitive exports, the Committee has called on Defra to take the ‘biggest single step’ that could ease difficulties, namely pursuing a veterinary partnership agreement that would reduce regulatory burdens faced by British businesses. The group of MPs also underlined the importance of the Government sticking to the new timetable to introduce British checks on EU imports, which would, they said be ‘absolutely vital’ in ensuring the competitiveness of seafood and meat businesses.
In the Committee’s report, Defra was urged to seek agreement with the EU on digitising the certification of papers such as Export Health Certificates. MPs have called for greater detail on the system’s progress and expected completion date. The Committee noted the Government’s “disappointing” response in its decision not to offer financial assistance to small businesses struggling to meet new red tape costs of exporting seafood and meat to the EU.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said: “The Government has finally set a date for when the playing field will be levelled for British businesses, by introducing checks for EU imports. This deadline must be adhered to- our businesses have been at a competitive disadvantage and this cannot continue
“However, the Government must now take initiative and seek to ease trading friction. A veterinary partnership agreement would reduce the red-tape pressure and costs placed on our seafood and meat exporters when trading with their biggest market, and maintain high animal welfare and food safety standards.”