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MPs told to simplify EU trade red tape

It is time for the UK Government to sort out the barriers which are hampering agri-food trade to Europe, according to NFU Scotland. 

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MPs told to simplify EU trade red tape

It is now more than 10 weeks since the end of the EU transition period and friction, delay, losses and extra costs have all become commonplace.

 

The problems have been laid out in a letter sent by NFUS to Lord Frost, the newly appointed Minster of State at the Cabinet Office with responsibility for post-Brexit strategy.

 

The letter insists he should push urgently for the simplification of the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) border controls which currently require lengthy specialist paperwork and frequent physical inspections on products of animal or plant origin.

 

A major failure of the trade deal with the EU from the perspective of Scottish agriculture is around seed potatoes.


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Failure by the UK and the EU to agree equivalence on seed potatoes has ended a trade which saw about 30,000 tonnes of seed potatoes, worth £13.5 million exported to mainland Europe and Ireland each year.

 

Most came from high-health stocks grown in Scotland, but trade has come to a shuddering halt.

 

NFUS president Martin Kennedy said: “As both the EU and the UK have the same sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules in place, agreements on equivalence and the mutual recognition of each other’s rules must be accepted to ease the flow of these goods.

 

“Only when either partner makes a change to those SPS rules should it be necessary to require an export health certificate or customs declaration.

 

“We welcomed the rapid action of Defra in applying for equivalence to the European Commission in January.

 

“However, it is hugely disappointing the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has continued to block the application on what NFU Scotland considers to be increasingly spurious grounds.”

Growing problems

Much of the urgency over seed potato exports to the EU stems from the need for Scottish seed potato growers to decide whether they should plant varieties wanted in Europe or instead plant the processing varieties which growers in England may need for 2022 to replace those they would normally have secured from the Netherlands or elsewhere in the EU.

 

The issue is complicated as high grade parent stock of these varieties, many of them protected by plant breeders’ rights, may not be available in Scotland this spring.

 

There is a derogation in place until the of June 2021 which allows EU seed potatoes to be imported into England.

 

There are however seemingly well-founded growing doubts over whether this derogation will be continued for another year.

 

NFUS president Martin Kennedy said: “The joint UK farming unions’ policy is seed potato trade with the EU must be reciprocal.

 

“The current derogation has, in NFUS’ view, been unhelpful in encouraging an agreement on equivalence.

 

“This asymmetrical arrangement is putting UK producers at a disadvantage and and we are advocating strongly for this not to be extended.”

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