A ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario is likely to cost EU meat exporters more than the Russian import ban imposed in response to EU sanctions over the invasion of the Crimea, an EU trade body has warned. 

The 66th European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) AGM was held in Bucharest, Romania last week.  UEBCV president Philippe Borremans used the meeting to call on Brexit negotiators from both sides to decide quickly on the transitionary arrangements to protect businesses in many member states which are facing great uncertainty.

In the twelve months since the UK referendum, the EU food industry delivering to the UK had incurred losses of more than €500 million due to the weakened Sterling, he said.  The UEBCV is preparing a report on the impact of a ‘cliff edge’ Brexit scenario on the European meat sector. “The report will demonstrate that now is the time for constructive decision making by negotiators if the EU wants to avoid a much more severe crisis than the one provoked by the Russian political embargo on EU agricultural goods<” he stated.

Speakers at the AGM warned the meat industry faces tremendous change in the years to come, particularly in animal welfare; environmental constraints; competitiveness and consumer behaviour. While meat is an  “an irreplaceable element” in the diet, due to its vitamin B12, zinc, iron and Omega 3 oil content, dietary habits are changing with consumer buying decisions increasingly driven by emotion.

EU Heath and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told delegates that a more demanding society means it is important to ensure better implementation of existing legislation and commitments. “The recently created EU Platform for Animal Welfare is a good example of smart co-operation involving the private sector, the competent authorities, the academic world and NGOs,” he noted. Non-legislative approaches can be effective, he added, announcing a new sub-group on animal welfare during transport.