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Ed's Brexit round-up

24th Nov 2017 / By Ed Barker

This week was one of great interest, not because of what has happened, but because of what could happen as Brexit issues begin to unfold.

Ed BOn Monday evening, the inaugural Henry Plumb lecture was held at the Royal Society in London, delivered by the UK’s former permanent representative to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers.

Unsurprisingly, the subject was on Brexit, but from his standpoint as a former negotiator and diplomat. It was extremely revealing. A really interesting conclusion to come from it was the issue of Northern Ireland; in his view an issue that the UK seems to not fully recognize. The reason why it is an issue is this:

  • The UK Government has stated explicitly that it will not break the integrity of the UK internal market (ie no difference in systems or market between each of the four nations in the UK) - but at same time wants to have a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Therefore, in order to have a single, unified UK market then it must be the same as whatever happens in Northern Ireland. In other words, you cannot allow a unique set of standards to be in place between the UK and the USA, and still expect Northern Ireland to have a frictionless border. This is because standards agreed with the USA will not align with the EU’s and therefore not align with Republic of Ireland’s. The only solution to that is a ‘hard’ border, in his view, and of course the political sensitivities let alone economic problems regarding a physical border going up need not be mentioned.
  • Another interesting view was that many exporter countries in Europe will try and stifle an EU/UK deal if it is perceived that the UK will have a deal with the USA (or others) that will allow lower standards products coming into the UK. This is partly to defend their export interests from being undercut, but also because there is a real fear that US products will then make their way onto the EU market indirectly – again the Northern Ireland border possibly being one such route. Once it is in Ireland, then it is effectively in Europe, and can moved onwards very easily

Pig trotters

In other news, yesterday saw the announcement that the first production of pig trotters from approved plants and the first production of pork from the additional approved abattoirs for mainland China, will be rolled-out. This long-awaited event is good news for the UK and is good reason to show our politicians that the pig sector stands well placed to benefit from further non-EU exports.

APPG reception 

‘This Tuesday saw the annual reception held for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Eggs, Pigs and Poultry, held in the House of Commons. APPGs are ways of MPs to collectively meet and discuss specific policy areas of interest to them – they range from everything and anything you can imagine, and in our case it is a good opportunity to update MPs and Peers on key concerns from our sectors in a more informal setting.

The Chairman, Jim Shannon MP (DUP) provided an excellent overview of the sectors, focussing explicitly on migrant labour. Using NPA figures from our recent member survey, he stated the need for certainty for those migrants employed in the sector and for their families. We saw MPs from across the political divide at the event, and was a useful springboard for our recently released Brexit ‘snapshot’.

EFRA evidence

And finally – next Wednesday at 3.45 I will be giving oral evidence to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee – on their current inquiry Brexit: Trade in Food. It will be an excellent opportunity to explain the challenges raised by Brexit, but also to explain where Government policy can help the sector grow. I will report back with how it went next Friday...