Farm groups and vets have responded angrily to a Government decision to delay checks on EU food imports to Great Britain (GB).
Exports from GB to the EU have faced thorough checks since the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1 2021, causing delays and leaving some food consignments rotting at ports.
Equivalent checks were due to be introduced on EU imports to GB from April 1, but last week, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove announced health certificates on products such as meat and milk will not be required before October, with in-person inspection on animal products now delayed from July to January 2022.
Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts said GB businesses were facing paperwork and checks, while their EU counterparts still had free access to the Great British market.
“This means we have an uneven playing field which greatly favours EU businesses, and now the UK Government has extended this advantage by at least six months,” he added.
Mr Roberts also claimed the extension of the ‘soft touch’ approach to EU imports would undermine its negotiating hand in discussions to reduce the burden of non-tariff barriers for GB exporters.
He said: “There is now much less of an incentive for the EU to quickly reach agreement with the UK on easing the flow of products across the EU-UK border, as the UK Government has effectively thrown the towel in for another six months.”
British Veterinary Association (BVA) president James Russell is seeking reassurances that delays to import checks will not affect GB’s ability to protect itself from diseases not currently present in the UK, such as African Swine Fever, while another vet leader warned the Government’s plan had placed his company in an ‘extremely perilous position’.
Diederick Opperman, managing director of HallMark Veterinary and Compliance Services, one of the largest providers of Official Veterinarians and Meat Hygiene Inspectors, explained his company had paid for trained staff to be ready ‘in a matter of weeks’.
“This has left HallMark in an extremely perilous position, because the work we promised to our new team members has been taken away,” he said.
“It truly is an appalling situation and amounts to a betrayal of vets and, indeed, the Government’s supposed Brexit ideal.”