FDF calls on embattled PM to resolve Brexit food crisis – UK exports to EU plummet

#Brexit special section Downing Street Economy In the media

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has called on Boris Johnson to restart talks with the EU and sort out the food exports crisis that has seen sales of UK milk and creams to the EU plummet 96% since Brexit.

Johnson has so far refused to open talks to solve issues arising from new trade barriers with the EU that the FDF says has cost UK exporters more than £1.1 billion since the start of 2021.

“While UK food and drink exports to the EU have improved from a 76% fall in January, they are still down nearly 41% in February 2021,” said Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF.

“Exports to our biggest market, Ireland, have also dropped more than two thirds. UK businesses continue to struggle with inconsistent and incorrect demands at EU borders, and small businesses have been hardest hit due to the collapse of groupage distribution into the EU. “

Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE are reporting the FDF’s figures showing UK food exports to Ireland down more than 70% in February. In February 2020 UK food exports to Ireland were worth £307.4 million but that had fallen to £90.5 million in February 2021.

Exports of the UK’s top 10 products – except for whisky – all fell, said the FDF, with the dairy and meat sectors the hardest hit. While milk and cream exports have been almost wiped out, cheese exports are down nearly two thirds, and beef and chicken exports are down more than 75%.

‘Even greater complexity, cost and uncertainty for UK exporters’

Goudie said the new EU import requirements for composite products that came into force this week, are “adding even greater complexity, cost and uncertainty for UK exporters.”

He continued: “It is essential that the EU-UK Partnership Council and its Trade Specialised Committees are convened to urgently address problems with the implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure small businesses are not shut out of trade by this trade deal.”

Imports to the UK are also down with the FDF figures showing a 10% drop over all, largely due to a 17% fall of imports from the EU. Imports from the rest of the world are up by almost 6%.

The UK’s top six suppliers – all EU members – all exported less to Britain in February. Imports from Ireland are down more than 31%.

The Independent reports that the FDF “statistics lay bare how withdrawal from the EU – rather than the impact of Covid-19 – lies behind the collapse in exports, since the transition period ended on 31 December.”

Johnson’s Brexit deal has affected the trade of animal and plant products especially hard as the agreement has led to extra paperwork and physical checks – the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls. These have proved particularly problematic for trade between Britain and Northern Ireland and have led to the UK government re-entering negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

‘No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!’

The prime minister is engulfed by a ever growing series of scandals, allegations of corruption, cronyism and his handling of the pandemic that culminated in Monday’s devastating Daily Mail front page.

It claimed Johnson’s frustration “boiled over” in a crucial October meeting about another lockdown when the PM raged “No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”

Downing said the claims are “just another lie” while Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove defended Johnson in the Commons on Monday, telling MPs: “This is a Prime Minister who was in hospital himself in intensive care. The idea that he would say any such thing I find incredible.”

Gove added: “I was in that room, I never heard language of that kind.”

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