British poultry industry fears 'no-deal' Brexit

If the United Kingdom (UK) were to crash out of the European Union (EU) without a deal being reached, the results would be “incredibly damaging” for the country’s poultry meat sector, according to the industry association, and one company in Northern Ireland will need to resolve a poultry waste issue.

omersukrugoksu | iStock.com
omersukrugoksu | iStock.com

If the United Kingdom (UK) were to crash out of the European Union (EU) without a deal being reached, the results would be “incredibly damaging” for the country’s poultry meat sector, according to the industry association, and one company in Northern Ireland will need to resolve a poultry waste issue.

Even at this late stage, there remains a significant lack of alignment between the expectations of the U.K. and the other 26 EU member states regarding the former country’s exit from the European trading bloc — Brexit — beyond the fact that it will occur on March 29 this year.

Many of the U.K.’s businesses have warned that a “No-Deal” Brexit is the least attractive option, impacting negatively on such aspects as production costs, trading opportunities, employment, and consumers.

“A no-deal Brexit would be incredibly damaging for our sector, for our ability to trade, for our workforce and for British consumers of poultry meat,” said the chief executive of the British Poultry Council (BPC), Richard Griffiths.

The UK’s poultry meat industry provides direct employment for 38,000 people, 60 percent of whom are nationals of other EU countries. Despite government assurances that the status of these workers will not be affected by Brexit, the lack of detail on the impacts for residents from other EU states after March 29 remains a concern to the individuals and their employers.

Financially, the sector contributes GBP5 billion (US$6.5 billion) to the national economy, generating GBP1 billion in tax revenue, according to the BPC.

Griffiths sees the continuation of trade with the EU as vital, as European partners account for GBP500 million per year in the UK’s poultry meat exports, and GBP2 billion in imports. A “no-deal” scenario would halt this trade, opening the country to imports of lower quality and/or standards, while products exported to the EU would be subject to a tariff of 27 percent.

Prices for fresh chicken breast meat could rise by as much as 25 percent, according to Griffiths.

To help mitigate some of the most damaging implications of Brexit on the workforce, BPC has called on the government to develop a plan for the poultry meat sector to continue access for skilled non-UK labor through a new simplified visa system to fill 68,000 vacancies in the sector each year.

Based on the likelihood of compromises to food affordability and availability following Britain’s departure from the EU, the BPC chief executive expressed his opinion last month that the country should remain in the Union.

“We’ve suffered the effects of the concept of Brexit since 2016, and the actuality of leaving will be worse. The only sensible option now is to abandon Brexit as a failed project,” he said.

Issues that seemed likely to challenge the poultry sector as a result of the referendum for the UK to leave the EU were being discussed in Parliament two years ago. Solutions appear to remain elusive.

Northern Ireland’s poultry litter dilemma

Among the main concerns relating to Brexit are the future of trade across the border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland after March 29.

A long-term highly politically sensitive issue, the border between the two states on the island of Ireland is relatively long and convoluted, and the multitude of crossing places would make it almost impossible to control trade fully, even with modern technology.

Just one example of the challenges ahead has been revealed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News web site.

Northern Ireland-based poultry meat company, Moy Park, has been transporting some of its poultry litter to a treatment plant in County Donegal in the Irish Republic for its safe disposal.

If the U.K. leaves the EU next month without an agreed deal, this transport will have to cease, leaving one of Europe’s largest poultry producers with more waste material than can be handled at its other treatment facility, which is in Northern Ireland.

Time is fast running out for the multitude of such issues large and small arising from Brexit to be addressed and solved before March 29.

 

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