Brexit border delays for meat and seafood exports: EFRA Committee launch urgent inquiry
29 January 2021
Exports of seafood and meat products to the EU have been disrupted since the end of the transition period on January 1st, with businesses of all sizes reporting losing money and trade due to bureaucratic border processes. Following a briefing by Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, the House of Commons EFRA Committee today launch an inquiry into how the Government can support meat and fish exporters.
Calling for a swift response from Defra, the Committee have also written to Mr Eustice, calling for answers on Defra's £23 million compensation fund for fish exporters. The letter asks for the Department to set out the arrangements which will help businesses access much-needed financial support quickly. The Committee also ask for estimates of the cost to date to UK food businesses caused by border issues and delays.
The broader inquiry, which will now begin accepting written evidence, will explore both long- and short-term action plans for exports to the EU, whilst also scrutinising the Government's immediate response to disruptions over the past month. The Committee is also asking questions of the UK's preparedness for checking food imports from the EU later this year, and what lessons have been learnt from the last month.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee, said:
"A month of delays, disruption and red tape have meant food export businesses large and small have lost many tens of thousands of pounds. This needs to be gripped by the Government at the highest level before businesses go to the wall.
"While news of the compensation fund for fish is welcome, we need details, and fast. It's time for the Government to get its act together and set out short, medium and long-term action plans for how it will support British food exporters. It is also clear that systems need to be streamlined, businesses supported, and mitigation plans made ahead of upcoming checks on food imports."
The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions, with an initial deadline of February 19th:
- Which seafood and meat exports have been particularly affected by border delays and disruptions since 1 January, and why?
- What impact have delays and non-tariff barriers to seafood and meat exports to the EU had on UK businesses?
- What are the medium to long-term implications of the non-tariff barriers for UK exporters and supply chains?
- What steps should the UK Government take to mitigate these issues? What should its short and long-term priorities for action be?
- How useful and responsive were the guidance and support provided by the Government to business, before and since 1 January?
- What can the UK learn from other countries who export food to the EU?
- How ready is the UK to introduce checks on food imports from the EU during 2021, and are there lessons to be learnt from the issues that UK exporters have faced?