With so much uncertainty, meat processors have been unable to make concrete decisions in response to the potential challenges of leaving the European Union.
A recent twist in the plot is the possibility of a ‘no-deal Brexit’, put forward by UK Prime Minister Theresa May at the beginning of July. This would mean the UK would have to leave the European Union immediately, without the 21-month transition period agreed upon by Brussels.
According to a number of meat bodies, including the British Poultry Council, a no-deal Brexit could have severe consequences for the industry.
GlobalMeatNews caught up with the International Meat Trade Association’s (IMTA) policy director Katie Doherty to delve into the details about how the meat industry could be affected by a no-deal Brexit.
IMTA has been recognised by industry as providing the best information and analysis on Brexit.
Doherty explained the three reasons why the meat industry would be one of the most affected by a no-deal Brexit.
“I’ve made a number of comments in forums that the meat industry will be one of the most impacted sectors. This is for three reasons: tariffs, veterinary checks and customs,” Doherty said. “Drilling down into the detail of that in terms of tariffs, meat is the highest tariff. For example, if you take UK exports of sheepmeat to the EU, which would be facing full duty, it would be paying 50% upwards, which is a significant amount of additional cost.”
She explained that, in a no-deal scenario, veterinary checks would also be enhanced, which could significantly affect the shelf-life of products.
“In a no-deal scenario, we would be facing exporting to the EU and needing to go with the export health certificate through a border inspection post where a vet has to open up 100% of the consignments and check whether the seal matches the documents,” she added.
“In addition to that, 20% of red meat has to be physically checked and poultry meat at 50%. Vets will be opening up cartons to check whether the product looks ok and potentially sending samples to a laboratory. This might mean the results come back in a couple of days or even a week. If you are looking at chilled poultry meat, which has around a 10-day shelf life, it is extremely concerning what that might mean for the shelf life of a product.”
Potential declarations of customs between the EU and the UK was also addressed as a “concern” by Doherty, who said intra-EU traders are not necessarily experienced in doing this if they haven’t conducted international trade before.
IMTA is currently talking to meat businesses about what a no-deal Brexit might mean for them and has produced a Brexit toolkit for its members to plan for the future.