Further delays to import checks ‘hugely unfair to local producers’

The UK government’s decision to suspend the introduction of new post-Brexit border checks on imports from the EU to the UK is a “step backwards”, the Ulster Farmers Union has said.

The UFU has slammed the move and called for it to be “reconsidered immediately”.

UFU president, Victor Chestnutt, commented: “Government’s decision to delay imposing border checks on EU imports for a fourth time, is totally unacceptable and hugely unfair to our local producers.

“They’re expected to uphold world leading standards, which they take pride in doing, all the while our EU competitors can take full advantage of an extended grace period, allowing them to access our extremely valuable home market relatively burden-free.

“It has created an uneven playing field and puts our biosecurity, food safety and animal health at risk.

“Our local farmers are struggling to manage skyrocketing production costs and our government has, once again, let them down when they need their support the most.

“Huge inflationary pressures has the future of many farm businesses hanging in the balance.

“Government should be working with local producers in order to sustain and protect our local food security, not making poor decisions that are going to aggravate an already extremely difficult situation.”

He continued: “We understand that the government’s rationale for delaying the checks is due to the current cost of living crisis and the extra expense it could create for consumers.

“However, we have also continued to flag up farmers situation regarding eyewatering cost increases on-farm, which we alone simply cannot absorb, and this must also be taken into account.

“To have this anti-competitive further controls delay now added on top of this, is extremely disappointing.”

Mr Chestnutt added: “It’s crucial that negotiators now seek to achieve a level playing field with practical and reasonable checks on both imports and exports without delay.

“The UFU continues to push for this border control issue to be resolved and urges the government to abandon these plans to suspend the introduction of new post-Brexit border checks, ending the threat of causing significant damage to our food and farming industries.

“If government does not do this, then it must urgently outline how it will protect our farmers from being at a disadvantage to EU competitors while also safeguarding animal health and welfare in the UK in the coming months,” the UFU president concluded.