Seafood and meat exports to the EU Contents

2The introduction of SPS checks on exports

6.Negotiations on a UK-EU trade deal were concluded with only one week of the 11-month Transition Period remaining. On 24 December 2020, the Prime Minister heralded the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) as “a deal that will allow UK goods and components to be sold without tariffs and without quotas in the EU market” and one that “if anything should allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with our European friends”.18 Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that “this deal is infinitely better than no deal and infinitely better than a failure to agree, which would have given us tariffs”, while the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said that they were “pleased that the UK has successfully maintained duty free access to the EU market” under the TCA.19 While the TCA uniquely created a zero-tariff and zero-quota trade deal between the EU and a trading partner (subject to UK-EU preferential rules of origin), it did not avoid the imposition of non-tariff barriers.20 As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) explains, non-tariff barriers “comprise all policy measures other than tariffs and tariff-rate quotas that have a more or less direct impact on international trade” and observed that international trade in goods and services can be “strongly affected” by non-tariff barriers.21 The challenge facing British exporters has arguably been unique as they adapt to additional red tape following a trade deal. Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), told the BBC that whereas “all trade negotiations so far were about removing obstacles to trade”, in the case of Brexit it was “the other way round” as the UK and EU moved away from a situation where there was frictionless trade and instead “create[d] obstacles to trade”, something Mr Lamy described as “unprecedented”.22

7.The TCA provided “very little” in regard to reducing the burden of additional trade friction for checks on Sanitary (human and animal) and Phytosanitary (plant) products—known as SPS—according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), in spite of the UK’s and EU’s February 2020 negotiating ambitions in this regard.23 The BVA described SPS checks as “a vital part of the biosecurity framework” that “protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants”.24 Although British authorities will not introduce general SPS checks for imports from the EU until 1 October (see chapter 4), the EU introduced them on 1 January for exports from Great Britain, including seafood and meat. Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, described the end of the Transition Period as “such a big culture change for everyone to get used to”.25 He said that although a change was expected, it was a “mammoth change … [from] quick and free-flowing trade” which meant it was “understandable that some people struggled in the first few weeks and months”.26 Martyn Youell, Senior Manager of Fisheries and Quota at Waterdance Limited, highlighted the volume of paperwork now required, citing one example where “71 pieces of paper [were needed] for one lorry of fish”.27 The BMPA have estimated that meat exporters must now undertake at least 21 additional steps during the end to end process of exporting products to the EU.28 These are set out in the Annex.

8.The imposition of SPS checks has meant that, since 1 January, seafood and meat exports from Great Britain to the EU must be accompanied by an Export Health Certificate (EHC).29 An EHC must be certified by an Official Veterinarian (OV) or (for seafood exports only) an Environmental Health Officer, with the exporter bearing the cost of certification.30 In advance of 1 January, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) created the EHC Online (EHCO) service; which allows 150 of the most frequently used EHCs to be filled in electronically.31 Where an EHC is not available through ECHO (there were around 35 in October 2020), one needs to apply to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to obtain a copy.32 In both cases, the completed EHC has to be printed, and then each page (including any blank pages) signed and stamped by a certifying officer following inspection of the consignment. Multiple copies of an EHC have to be provided in different languages, namely in English, the language of the EU Border Control Post (BCP) where the export will enter the EU and (if different) the destination EU country. The NFU cited one example where an OV had to stamp EHC paperwork 72 times for one consignment.33 The completed EHC is then scanned and sent to the importing company, and hard copies are carried in transit with the consignment for checking at the EU BCP. Eddie Green, UK Head of Cold Chain for DFDS, said “we cannot believe that in this day and age we have to send drivers with a piece of paper with a wet signature on it”, and described it as an “archaic situation”.34 Nick Allen, Chief Executive Officer of the BMPA, said that under the post-1 January system it “feels as though we have stepped back into the 1950s”.35

9.Defra acknowledged that the United Kingdom is “unique” among countries that export fish to the EU because it “exports large volumes of high quality live and fresh seafood”, that must reach the consumer “in as little time as possible”.36 The time to complete EHCs and other paperwork, as well as checks at the border, can delay the shipment of live or fresh seafood and meat exports. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) said that for a delay of up to 12-hours, the “average impact of delays on prices” for some seafood exports is a 33% to 50% reduction.37 NFU Scotland said that EHCs were “the main challenge relating to meat exports” as they require “extra time and impose extra costs” while needing to be accurately completed.38 Gary McFarlane, Northern Ireland Director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said that for some products, it “can take close to an hour” for an individual EHC to be completed.39 Estimates of the cost of obtaining an EHC varied. The Secretary of State, Rt Hon George Eustice MP, said it “ranges from, in some parts of the country like Cornwall, where the local authority is still part-subsidising it, £20 or £30 per certificate, to £80 or more per certificate on more complex loads”.40 The BMPA said EHCs were “costing in excess of £200 in Vet costs” which was part of a broader increase of between 60% to 100% on the end to end cost per load of exports to the EU.41 The Secretary of State said that the cost of obtaining an EHC for export to the EU was now “the principal cost for the fishing sector or, indeed, the meat processing sector” when exporting to the EU.42

Preparation for the end of the Transition Period

10.Prior to 1 January, businesses exporting seafood and meat to the EU were preparing for a new trading relationship. There was uncertainty over whether there would be a trade deal, and, if there was, what the nature of such a deal would be (including the SPS element), so businesses prepared for a range of scenarios, at the same time as dealing with the covid-19 pandemic during much of 2020.43 Agreement of the TCA on 24 December gave businesses only a week over the festive period to make their final preparations.

11.Defra said that it had “produced a considerable amount of guidance across multiple platforms” which it had promoted to businesses both before and after 1 January, including on SPS checks and customs declarations, while webinars were also conducted.44 However, Seafood Scotland said that, for SMEs in particular, there has been “limited ‘bandwidth’ for preparation” for 1 January as they had “simultaneously had to address major problems associated with the pandemic over the last year”.45 There was broad criticism of the guidance produced by the Government for exporters:

12.The EU introduced new EHCs on 21 April 2021, which apply to a broader range of manufactured foods. The BVA told us in February that, at that point, there had been “little official guidance” to OVs from the Government for this change, and similarly “little advice has been shared with industry [by Defra] on how to make preparations now to ensure certifying OVs will have the required information in the correct format to complete and sign these new EHCs”.50 On 25 March, the Director-General, Farming and Biosecurity at Defra, David Kennedy, told us that Defra had the “draft certificates ready; we have draft guidance” and that Defra were “working very closely with industry”.51

Live Bivalve Molluscs

13.Concerns were raised about Government communications with industry before 1 January on the new rules for the export of live bivalve molluscs (LBM), such as oysters, mussels, clams and cockles. LBM can either be caught from aquaculture or the wild, and those caught in the waters where there is a higher concentration of E.coli in their flesh—class B and class C production grounds—have to be “depurated” before being considered fit for human consumption under EU laws.52

14.The Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) said that it and the industry had “raised concerns over the viability of trade in LBMs with government and, in particular, with DEFRA many times since 2017” due to the different rules for exports from non-EU Member States.53 In September 2019, Defra sought clarification from the European Commission about whether LBM could continue to be depurated after having been exported to the EU.54 Defra subsequently informed the SAGB that LBM harvested from aquaculture in “class B and class C waters would still be able to be exported to the EU for depuration”.55 On 10 December 2020 the Secretary of State wrote to MPs setting out, among other issues which products would be subject to “prohibition and restrictions” on exports to the EU.56 This included “farmed aquatic animals not ready for human consumption” including LBM.57 These would be “not exportable unless compliant with conditions for third country imports”, however “the issue will only be relevant to aquaculture animals produced in areas subject to disease controls”.58 However, as Sarah Horsfall, Co-Chief Executive of the SAGB said, “we know, that has not turned out to be the case”.59 After 1 January 2021, exports to the EU of LBM harvested from aquaculture in non-Class A British waters, and not just those “subject to disease controls”, were rejected at the border, on the grounds that they should now be depurated before export to the EU because Great Britain was a third country for the purposes of trading with the EU.60 Defra officials, Ms Horsfall noted, did “not understand the detail very well … back in January” and “did not necessarily understand the way the industry operated”.61

15.The SAGB said the root of the problem was that Defra didn’t share the September 2019 correspondence with the SAGB even though it asked “to see the EU clarification several times”.62 The SAGB only saw the correspondence in February 2021.63 Having now reviewed the September 2019 exchange, the SAGB said:

It seems to the industry, from the documentation it has now seen that DEFRA asked a question of the EU with regard to the trade, which was insufficiently detailed, lacked clarity and was based on animal health considerations when the issue concerns food safety. The EU then replied to [it] in a way which was open to misinterpretation. Industry feels that there has been a lack of understanding of both industry practices and relevant legislation shown throughout the process by DEFRA and this has led directly to the current situation where industry cannot trade.64

While being clear that she was not saying “who is in the right or who is in the wrong at all” concerning the ongoing and, to date, unresolved disagreement between Defra and the European Commission,65 Ms Horsfall added that had Defra shared the September 2019 correspondence at the time “it would have raised questions in the industry … We would not have interpreted it necessarily in the way Defra did just from one single paragraph”.66

Teething problems and structural issues

16.The joint submission from Waterdance Limited, Western Fish Producers’ Organisation, More Seafood, Brixham Trawler Agents, Samways Fish Merchants & International Transporters, and Passmore Fishing (Waterdance et al) said that first tests of the Government’s guidance, and their systems, “were on January 1st with real shipments”.67 This lack of testing meant there were a number of teething problems as businesses sought to continue exporting seafood and meat to the EU under the new trading arrangements. Nick Allen said that “between 125 and 150 separate technical issues have had to be sorted out in the first six to eight weeks of this system running”.68 In addition, Defra said that there had been “inconsistent interpretation of the rules, between Member States, Border Control Posts (BCPs), and even within staff on duty at individual BCPs” which had created delays at the EU border even for “well prepared” exporters and created a lack of certainty in the time required to clear customs and SPS checks from one journey to another.69 Defra noted that one issue was that some EU BCPs requested that EHCs were signed and stamped in a particular colour of ink, which Defra had resolved through engagement with the European Commission.70

17.There were particular issues for lorries carrying “groupage” loads—these are where a single lorry carries consignments of different products, or from different companies, or both.71 Nick Allen told us that “smaller businesses depend on groupage”, because, as Shane Brennan noted, they “do not necessarily ever get to the sorts of volumes you need in order to do a full-load operation”.72 For meat exports, the BMPA noted that groupage “probably covered 40% of meat sales to the EU”, while Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive of Seafood Scotland, explained that, for seafood exporters, “groupage is a big part, especially for Scotland, of how we operate into Europe”.73 From 1 January, each consignment within a lorry load required its own EHC—if one consignment’s EHC was incorrect, the lorry was delayed at the EU border. The International Meat Trade Association said that “the complexity of needing EHCs and facing veterinary checks is multiplied in a groupage load”,74 and Plymouth Trawler Agents Limited noted that “the risk of an entire lorry load being rejected or seriously delayed because of a mistake on part of the consignment is prohibitive”.75 Defra acknowledged that the “additional complexities that arise with groupage has been the most common problem for meat exports”.76

18.One consequence of these initial problems was that DFDS, a shipping and logistics company, closed its Larkhall distribution centre—a key “hub” (see paragraphs 44 to 47) near Glasgow for Scottish seafood that supported the use of groupage—from 8 January for 10 days, a measure which Eddie Green said was “not part of our plan at all”.77 Mr Green explained that DFDS took this action because “there were breakdowns in Government-based systems in this country and France”, that uploading the new documentation was “a nightmare”, while more generally “things just did not gel together and we could not get the cargo through”.78 Donna Fordyce said that during the period when groupage was suspended during January, there had been an increase in direct landings of fishing vessels into the EU (which obviated the need for SPS checks).79

19.There has been praise for how Defra officials have reacted when exporters raised concerns since 1 January. MacDuff Shellfish said it recognised the “efforts of Government to seek speedy resolution of many of the points raised by the industry” since 1 January.80 The BMPA said that Defra had “worked hard to help businesses with problems overcome them and have been very reactive to problems raised”, although issues with some guidance remained, while webinars and briefings were a “mixed bag” with some officials “unable to answer some quite basic questions” or sometimes giving “incorrect or confusing answers”.81 Defra highlighted that it was working with industry and authorities in the EU, including weekly engagement with the French authorities and the EU Commission, in order to “resolve any areas of inconsistency, and to understand delays”.82 It said that this approach had “reduced time taken for border checks, enabled us to provide updated guidance (e.g. in how to complete export paperwork), and improved business confidence”.83 Domestically, it had established a “UK Seafood Exports Working Group” that meets twice-weekly and is attended by over 60 seafood businesses and organisations.84

20.As a result of these measures, combined with “people getting used to … new systems [and] new paperwork” as Charlie Dewhirst, Senior Policy Adviser at the National Pig Association, highlighted, there was evidence that the new trading arrangements were bedding down.85 James Russell, President of the BVA, said that for EHCs presented at the French border, “in the first week in January, around 90% of loads were non-compliant” whereas by mid-March this had improved markedly to a non-compliance rate of 8%, with “slightly less than a third of that related to the quality of the certification”.86 Eddie Green said comparing January with the situation in mid-March was “just night and day” and that “a lot of the teething problems have gone away”—including that the Larkhall facility had resumed a next day groupage service to the main French Channel port for seafood imports, Boulogne-sur-Mer.87 The NFFO observed that delays at the border at Boulogne had fallen from “up to 96 hours” in early January to “around 3 hours”.88

21.Martyn Youell said that “while some things have settled down … we feel that at least 80% of the trading difficulties that have been encountered are still in existence today”.89 Eddie Green said that there remained the “structural issue” of increased costs of exporting to the EU, explaining it was now costing DFDS “more money so we need to increase our rates”, but added that “the biggest impact is on the exporter and the sheer cost of the [export] health certificates … [and also] export declarations, import declarations and the like”.90 Plymouth Trawler Agents Limited said that “the additional bureaucracy and delays have increased costs–which cannot be passed on to end buyers if the UK is to remain competitive and not lose customers”.91 There also continue to be issues at the border. Waterdance Limited highlighted the case of a lorry load of 500kg of Dover Sole and around 9 tonnes of whole scallop that was “arbitrarily rejected” at the EU border on 27 March, and noted that there were no “public officials available at weekends to help resolve this situation”.92

22.Problems persist with groupage. For meat exporters, Shane Brennan said that there had been a “collapse in groupage”, a view shared by Nick Allen who said that “some haulage firms have just walked away” from operating groupage after the first week of the new trading arrangements “because it was just too complicated for them”.93 David Kennedy conceded that groupage to the EU remained “very difficult” but that Defra was “working on solutions that will bring back groupage”, while the Secretary of State told us that Defra had agreed new protocols on groupage with the EU.94 We explore the opportunities that hubs offer to help businesses further in paragraphs 44 to 47.

Export volumes and long-term impacts

23.Government data for January 2021 showed that food and live animal exports to the EU were 63% lower than in December 2020.95 In contrast, exports to non-EU countries were 14% lower over the same period.96 The Office for National Statistics (ONS) cautioned that monthly data is “erratic”, and the Secretary of State said that stockpiling and the impact of covid-19 on the hospitality market could also be factors, but acknowledged that “some people were cautious about entering the market during January”. The British Poultry Council noted that, even by February, export volumes to the EU were “around a half of normal” as poultry businesses adopted the “cautious” approach referred to by Mr Eustice.97 Market prices have also fallen; Martyn Youell noted that the online auctions held by Brixham Trawler Agents experienced a “dramatic decrease” in the number of EU buyers buying during January, which “inevitably fed through into the prices paid”.98 On one day in January, the price of Dover Sole was 25% lower on the Brixham market than the Belgium market which Waterdance et al said was “purely the impact of Brexit” rather than other factors, such as covid-19.99

24.Commenting on the January export data, Shane Brennan said “we have been pre-conditioned to this idea that 40% or 50% collapses is what we expect. That is what we have been talking about up until now, and that is a catastrophe”.100 Looking to the coming months, Mr Brennan said that “while we will probably rebound, because there is a lot of Covid effect in there, if we rebound to 10% or 15% short of where we were, that is still a disaster”, and that there would be “big winners and losers within that [decline], inevitably”.101 The Secretary of State said that it was “difficult to predict exactly what will happen” to seafood and meat exports to the EU during the rest of 2021 and whether they would return to their pre-1 January levels.102 Highlighting the unpredictability, at our hearing on 25 March Mr Eustice said it was “difficult to predict exactly what the trade figures for February will be”.103 Those figures, published on 13 April, showed food and live animal exports to the EU were 77% higher than in January 2021, but still 10.8% lower than in February 2020 (before the covid-19 pandemic caused lockdowns in the UK and Europe).104

25.Shane Brennan said that the decline in seafood and meat exports since 1 January—whether due to Brexit, covid-19 or other issues—risked a “habit that gets formed of not buying from the UK”, and that this was already “quite well entrenched after three months”.105 Donna Fordyce concurred, saying “the reputation of the UK is being lost day by day”.106 There was also evidence that the additional costs and delays were increasing the risk of businesses relocating to the EU. The BMPA said that in response to a 60% decline in their UK exports, one multinational business had “made about two thirds of this up by shifting production out of UK”.107 Nick Allen described this as “exporting jobs and exporting added value” and cautioned that moving production to the EU was not an option for smaller British meat processors, who would instead have to rely on the domestic market.108 Similarly, Donna Fordyce said that for seafood exports it was “easier to truck out whole fish rather than process it”, adding that this was creating a “real concern for the processing sector” who had “mothballed their processing at the moment, and they are laying off staff”.109 Martin Youell said that some seafood exporters were “seriously considering relocating parts of their processing businesses to the EU because of the difficulties we face at the moment”.110

26.We welcome the successful negotiation of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) with the EU, and its preservation of tariff and quota free trade for seafood and meat. However, the Agreement introduces substantial non-tariff barriers for such exports, in particular the requirement for an Export Health Certificate (EHC). Although there have undoubtedly been “teething issues”, there has also been a structural change in how British businesses export produce to the EU since 1 January. The substantial new paperwork, and checks at the EU border, have added costs, delays and uncertainty to the export process for highly time-sensitive seafood and meat exports. We believe that insufficient priority was given by the Government to reaching a deal on minimising or removing the need for SPS checks in the TCA.

27.We commend seafood and meat exporters on their efforts to prepare for the new trading environment with the EU amidst the covid-19 pandemic, and acknowledge the considerable uncertainty of what they were preparing for. In as much as this uncertainty similarly hampered the Government in what support and guidance it could provide before 1 January, we believe that seafood and meat exporters have not received the standard of support they should have done to allow them to prepare. Guidance was not sufficiently timely, targeted or joined-up. This has especially impacted smaller businesses, many of whom are handling export red tape for the first time. As the case of live bivalve molluscs (LBM) highlighted, Defra should have engaged with exporters more closely, in this case by sharing information it had received from the European Commission allowing the industry to point out that it did not provide the clarity Defra officials thought it did. This resulted in the Government making a mistake in how the Commission would apply the relevant regulations, leading to the industry being compromised when it became clear that exports of LBM from aquaculture in Class B and C water that had not been depurated would be blocked. We believe that the European Commission could and should have taken a more pragmatic approach to the interpretation of these rules. If the Government believes the EU to be legally incorrect, the Government should urgently challenge the European Commission’s stance.

28.The Government should also have worked more closely with the EU and Members States to test systems in advance of 1 January, pre-empting some of the teething problems exporters faced in January. The UK Government should learn from this, and in advance of the imposition of full import checks over the next year (see chapter 4) it should work with EU Governments and UK importers to properly test the UK’s arrangements.

29.Since the Transition Period ended, Defra has worked with stakeholders to resolve these teething problems and we commend its efforts. However, the new non-tariff barriers for exporters to the EU will impose substantive and enduring costs. As a result, larger businesses may move the processing of seafood and meat to the EU, while smaller businesses may find that exporting food to the EU is unviable. We make several recommendations in the rest of the report for how these barriers can be minimised.

Certifying Officers

30.Only a certifying officer can sign and stamp an EHC. They can either be an Official Veterinarian (OV) or (for seafood only) an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). Defra estimated in October 2020 that “around 200 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Official Vets (OVs)” would be required to certify export of POAO from Great Britain after the end of the Transition Period.111 The BVA said that “businesses involved in export certification work put the number higher, requiring at least 350 FTE additional vets”.112 The BVA said that “translating an FTE figure into the actual number of OVs needed is more complex because many qualified vets operating in the private certification market certify health certificates alongside other veterinary activities”.113 Further complicating the picture “there is a range of OV qualifications tailored to specific types of export” so geography would be a factor as OVs with the correct qualifications would be needed in the right places to meet the needs of local producers.114 According to James Russell the number of vets qualified to certify EHCs had risen from “around 900 people … to, at the last count, just on the plus side of 1,800 people” and that there had been “some great steps put in place” including Government funded training.115

31.The Government also provided £1.1 million at the end of 2020 to local authorities to increase EHO certifier capacity for seafood EHCs.116 Furthermore, the APHA had also put in place “surge capacity” for OVs, and introduced the Certification Support Officer (CSO) role who can collect the evidence required for the OV to complete an EHC. There are now some 400 CSOs.117 The BVA supported this move and called for an increase in the number of CSOs “to help to optimise limited veterinary resource”.118

32.David Kennedy said that “there is enough capacity in the system” at present, citing the absence of demand for the surge capacity to date.119 The BVA agreed that “thus far, veterinary capacity has not yet been a barrier” but cautioned that it was “too early to tell” given the fall in export volumes to the EU.120 Mr Russell said the BVA “still do not have the confidence” that there are sufficient OVs “to do everything that is being asked for”.121 The National Sheep Association said that OVs to certify EHCs were “in high demand, short supply, and their services are expensive”.122 Nick Allen said that some BMPA members were “starting to say … [that they] are struggling to find vets to sign certificates in particular areas”.123 The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association said that one of its “major members has had to shut down a factory because there are insufficient vets” available to sign EHCs.124

33.Mr Kennedy conceded that “there will be increased demand” for certifying officers as covid-19 restrictions are relaxed and the use of groupage increases, but there “will be increasing capacity, because vets are getting better and doing export health certification with less time and less resource”.125 He added that the Government are watching the amount of capacity “very closely”.126

34.The extent of these concerns was highlighted in a paper by Defra to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) that it considered at its 18 March 2021 Council Meeting.127 Defra said that despite the actions it had taken to increase the number of suitably-trained OVs to certify EHCs, “there is still a risk that export certification capacity will be insufficient to meet demand” which could mean that “exports of UK products of animal origin are constrained”.128 Defra also noted that evidence of higher salaries for vets certifying EHCs and an active recruitment market both “threaten to attract vets away from abattoir work”, namely meat hygiene control work, which is also undertaken by OVs.129 This was one of several factors which caused Defra to warn that it “currently anticipate[s] a severe shortage of OV capacity in abattoirs in England and Wales over the next 6–12 months”.130 Defra therefore asked the RCVS Council to amend its temporary register rules for 12 months to allow temporary registrants to “carry out specifically defined OV work” including providing official meat hygiene controls in England and Wales.131 It did not request a relaxation for OVs certifying EHCs, but said it would “if we determined that there was a significant risk that exports requiring EHCs or trade to NI requiring EHCs would be at significant risk within the following three months”.132 The RCVS Council approved Defra’s application by eleven votes to ten with three abstentions.133

35.The Government took early steps to secure a significant increase in capacity to deal with the substantial increase in demand for certification officers, and there does not appear to have been significant shortages. However, we note that increased demands for Official Veterinarians (OVs) to certify EHCs have reduced the number available to undertake vital meat certification work in slaughterhouses. We also note that some businesses are experiencing difficulties securing the certification of EHCs. We are further concerned that the introduction of new EU EHCs and a recovery in export volumes may create challenges in the short-term. Given the important role certifying officers play in ensuring the export of seafood and meat to the EU, Defra should closely monitor the availability of certifying officers to ensure businesses can readily access them when they need them and at appropriate rates. Should Defra make a request to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to allow the temporary registration of OVs certifying EHCs, it should inform this Committee immediately.

36.As noted above, most OVs are in private practice and carry out certification work alongside other activities.134 This approach was “devised at a time when we did not have Brexit” and the volume of exports requiring an EHC was “so much lower than they are now” according to Shane Brennan.135 He said that in “pretty much every country in the world” OVs are government employees, which he said was a “recognition of the vital public interest involved in the service of vouching for the quality and safety of the nation’s food”.136 Gary McFarlane said that in Northern Ireland OVs and EHOs are all part of the public service, in contrast to the reliance on private vets in England.137 David Kennedy said that England had a market for OVs which was “working well”, adding that it was not possible to have a mix of public sector OVs alongside a market for OVs.138 However, Defra was able to “buttress” the private market through the availability of surge capacity.139 There is merit in exploring the creation of a public sector service of full-time certifying officers, especially given the Government’s desire to increase food and drink exports. This could increase confidence that EHCs would be promptly certified and provide a standardised pricing structure. Defra should examine the experience of other countries which provide a public sector certification service and publish a report on its findings within the next twelve months.

18 Prime Minister’s Office, Prime Minister’s statement on EU negotiations: 24 December 2020, speech, 24 December 2020

19 Oral evidence taken before the International Trade Committee on 11 February 2021, HC (2019–21) 1206, Q63; National Farmers’ Union (SME0028) para 2

20 Prime Minister’s Office, International treaty - Summary Explainer, updated 11 March 2021

21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Non-tariff measures: Tariffs are the tip of the iceberg: How behind the border issues impact trade, accessed on 29 March 2021. Non-tariff barriers are also referred to as non-tariff measures.

22 BBC, The Week in Westminster, Audio 07:55 to 08:20, 1 February 2020

23 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 7; In February 2020, the UK and the EU set out their negotiating positions for their future relationship, including on checks of Sanitary (animals) and Phytosanitary (plants) exports, known as SPS. Both the UK and EU stated they wished an SPS agreement to “build on” and go beyond the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on SPS measures, “facilitating access to each party’s market” while protecting human, animal and plant life and health. [HM Government, The Future Relationship with the EU: The UK’s Approach to Negotiations, CP211, February 2020, p 8; Council of the European Union, Directives for the Negotiation of a new Partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 25 February 2020, p 12]

24 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 3

27 Q3

28 British Meat Processors Association (SME0018); British Meat Processors Association, UK Meat Industry Brexit Impact Report Q1. 2021, 23 March 2021, p 5

30 Chapmans of Rye and Rother and Wealden District Council Environmental Health (SME0009) p 5

32 GOV.UK, ‘Get an export health certificate’, accessed on 21 April 2021

33 National Farmers’ Union (SME0028) para 7.6

36 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) para 7.2

37 The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (SME0031) para 9

38 NFU Scotland (SME0016) para 5

41 British Meat Processors Association (SME0018) p 2

43 Seafood Scotland (SME0015)

44 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) paras 6.1 and 6.2

45 Seafood Scotland (SME0015)

46 Scotland Food & Drink (SME0022)

47 Plymouth Trawler Agents Limited (SME0012)

48 National Farmers’ Union (SME0028) para 19

49 Pet Food Manufacturers Association (SME0023)

50 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 31

52 For LBM caught in Class B production grounds, depuration can be either purification in a tank, or relaying (i.e. moving) the LBM to Class A waters. For LBM caught in Class C production grounds, depuration can only occur through relaying. Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SME0037) p1. For the definitions of the different classes of water see, Food Standards Agency, “Shellfish Classification” (accessed 12 April 2021)

53 Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SME0037) p 2

54 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0034)

56 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0034)

57 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0034)

58 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0034)

60 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0034)

62 Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SME0037) p 2

63 Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SME0037) p 2

64 Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SME0037) p 3

65 In February 2021, the Secretary of State told the House that there was “no legal justification” for the European Commission’s ban, and said that in September 2019 the Commission had said that “the existing trade in farmed molluscs could continue under existing export health certificates” (HC Deb, 8 February 2021, cols 38–39). On 10 February, the Commission said that the September 2019 correspondence had concerned “animal health guarantees only”, rather than fitness for human consumption (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (SME0034) [Letter from the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety]).

67 Western Fish Producers’ Organisation, Waterdance Ltd, More Seafood, Brixham Trawler Agents, Samways Fish Merchants & International Transporters, Passmore Fishing (SME0017)

69 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036)

70 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) para 1.7

71 NFU Scotland (SME0016) para 17

73 British Meat Processors Association (SME0018); Q5

74 International Meat Trade Association (SME0003) para 6

75 Plymouth Trawler Agents (SME0012)

76 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) para 3.1

80 MacDuff Shellfish (SME0002) para 5

81 British Meat Processors Association (SME0018)

82 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) para 4.3

83 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) para 4.3

84 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SME0036) para 4.6

88 National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (SME0031) paras 10 and 13

89 Q2

91 Plymouth Trawler Agents (SME0012)

92 Waterdance Limited (SME0040)

95 Office for National Statistics, Statistical bulletin - UK trade: February 2021, 13 April 2021, section 4

96 Office for National Statistics, Statistical bulletin - UK trade: February 2021, 13 April 2021, section 5

97 Office for National Statistics, Statistical bulletin - UK trade: January 2021, 12 March 2021, p 3; Qq134–135; British Poultry Council (SME0030) para 8

99 Western Fish Producers’ Organisation, Waterdance Ltd, More Seafood, Brixham Trawler Agents, Samways Fish Merchants & International Transporters, Passmore Fishing (SME0017)

104 Office for National Statistics, Statistical bulletin - UK trade: February 2021, 13 April 2021, section 4

107 British Meat Processors Association (SME0018) p 3

112 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 17

113 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 17

114 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 17

117 Oral evidence taken before the Public Accounts Committee on 21 January 2021, HC (2019–21) 1154, Q79

118 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 18

120 British Veterinary Association (SME0027) para 12

122 National Sheep Association (SME0029)

124 Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (SME0014) para 15; Pet Food Manufacturers Association (SME0023)

127 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Council Meeting: Thursday, 18 March 2021, March 2021

128 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Council Meeting: Thursday, 18 March 2021, March 2021

129 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Council Meeting: Thursday, 18 March 2021, March 2021

130 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Council Meeting: Thursday, 18 March 2021, March 2021

131 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Council Meeting: Thursday, 18 March 2021, March 2021; “UK revises veterinary rules in abattoirs as Brexit pressures mount”, The Cattle Site, 29 March 2021. The Veterinary Surgeons Act (VSA) 1966 sets out the criteria for registration with the RCVS and therefore to practise veterinary surgery in the United Kingdom. The VSA allows an exception to the requirement for Full Registration, namely Temporary Registration which enables certain veterinary surgeons holding qualifications that do not make them eligible to register under any other section of the VSA eligible to apply for Temporary Registration [Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Temporary Registration Requirements / Guidance Notes, November 2018, paras 1 and 3].

132 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Council Meeting: Thursday, 18 March 2021, March 2021

Published: 29 April 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement