UFU supportive of UK EU alignment on agri-food standards

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says it would back an agreement in principle that would align the United Kingdom (UK) as a whole to the European Union’s (EU) agri-food sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards.

It would significantly help minimise trade friction from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI) and vice versa, solving many of the disruptive issues that the NI agri-food industry has been experiencing since the implementation of the NI Protocol on January 1, 2021.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “Since the Brexit referendum result the UFU has been lobbying to achieve the best possible outcome for NI farmers. Our aim has always been focused on ensuring free and frictionless trade could continue east/west and north/south. Aligning the UK’s agri-food standards with the EU’s would straighten out a lot of the trade issues that we have been burdened with since the beginning of the year. It would do away with a large percentage of the physical and documentary checks that are currently required, helping to ensure agri-food products and livestock can continue moving, flowing as freely as possible from GB to NI without extra complications and costs.

“We have many examples already such as livestock identification changes and machinery soil contaminant certification where additional restrictive measures are now required. One particular and very visible effect is the shop window for NI pedigree breeders being blocked, as animals cannot be taken to GB to be shown. While animals can still be sold in GB the regulations still limit the farmer. If he or she travels to GB to sell an animal but the animal is not sold, it has a six-month residency to complete in GB before it can be brought back into NI. It’s not a practical situation by any means and the long-term damage will not only affect the pedigree sector, but it will eventually impact the availability and quality of the gene pool of NI livestock.

“Aligning the entire UK with the EU in the area of SPS standards would help improve what has become an absolute trading nightmare for many of our farmers.”