UK meat sector welcomes Third Country status, but ‘frustrated’ by absence of ‘crucial information’

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/Fevziie Ryman
GettyImages/Fevziie Ryman

Related tags Brexit Meat Export BMPA

The continued export of UK meat, fish and dairy to Europe has been confirmed, but industry says ‘crucial information’ has yet to be provided, which is hindering Brexit preparation.

The UK has secured ‘national listed status’ in time for Christmas. Earlier today, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the UK’s Third Country status means live animals and products of animal origin – such as meat, fish and dairy – can continue to be exported to Europe.

The status was confirmed by the EU after it met the health and biosecurity assurances required for a third country. The decision will also allow the continued movement of equines between the UK and the EU.

“Third country listed status demonstrates our very high standards of biosecurity and animal health which we will continue to maintain after the end of the transition period,” ​said UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss.

According to Defra, the decision will bring ‘welcome clarity’ to the UK’s farmers and food producers, however Chief Executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), Nick Allen, is not so sure.

While the BMPA welcomes the news, stressing it is a ‘huge relief’ to the industry, Allen told FoodNavigator his members have been given ‘very scant’ information surrounding Third Country Listing Status by the Government.

Indeed, the official communication received stated only that the UK had been granted listed status, he said.

“This absence of crucial information from both the European Commission and from our own Government is highly frustrating and ties one hand behind our back when it comes to being able to prepare for Brexit.”

Specially, industry is missing ‘any detail’ surrounding what, if any, additional guarantees will apply to the UK – for example, the need for TB or Trichinella testing – that will form part of the Export Health Certificates needed to export products of animal origin to the EU after 31 December, the chief executive explained. “All we’ve been told is that this will be confirmed on the 28th​ December.”

In the absence of this detail, BMPA fears its members are going to lose the ‘last few precious preparation days’ they have left, which Allen said could have been used to get ready for the new export system.

“Instead, the industry must simply hope that nothing nasty is included in the UK’s final Health Status Listing. And if, for example, it transpires that standstill is needed for sheep, this would mean that ​all trade in sheep meat with the EU would instantly stop on 1 January.

“Simply getting Third Country Listing Status is just the first part. It’s missing details that will make the difference between trade or no trade with the EU in January.” ​ 

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