Further calls to simplify SPS border checks with EU

NFU Scotland has added its voice to calls for a simplified system of sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) checks on meat exports from the UK to the EU, following the end of the Brexit transition period.

The British Poultry Council and the Ulster Farmers Union earlier this month urged the government to work with the EU to align the two blocs’ 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.

According to NFU Scotland, a priority must be to digitise and simplify the SPS border controls that require specialist paperwork and frequent physical inspections on products of animal or plant origin. The cost and time currently levied by these compliance requirements present a severe hindrance to trade. It said mechanisms such as the new Trade Specialised Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures already exist to ensure that simplification can operate without compromising biosecurity.

NFU Scotland has provided written evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee at Westminster on its inquiry on ‘Seafood and Meat Exports to the EU’. Last month, NFU Scotland also gave oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee where it highlighted trade problems encountered since the TAC was put in place.

NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said: “Throughout the whole Brexit process, we’ve consistently pressed for an agreement that is as close to friction-free as possible. The TCA may be tariff and quota free, but it’s far from friction free.  

“That said, the end of transition did not mark the end of existing standards on either side of the Channel nor any erosion of them.  

“It is abundantly clear that it is not in the interest of businesses in the UK nor the EU to allow current trade friction to continue and steps must be taken to build on the TCA to simplify and minimise the requirements needed through the likes of export health certificates and customs declarations.  

“SPS border controls should be proportionate to the risks identified and able to recognise that while the UK and the EU now have separate regulatory regimes, the objectives and the way in which they operate to regulate plant and animal health are the same.  

“Agri-food products in the EU and the UK rightly meet high standards which are in the interest of consumer protection, animal health and welfare and the environment.  If both sides would recognise this we could simplify processes and reduce the cost and time levied by the checks and controls that have been put in place at the borders.”   

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