UK industry body The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has warned the country’s meat businesses may have to re-configure the way they work to deal with post-Brexit trading rules for exports to the European Union.

And it suggests this could lead to job losses in the UK industry.

“Barriers to trade are now so great that UK companies are setting up shop in the EU, taking jobs and GDP with them,” the BMPA said.

UK firms exporting to the EU from 1 January have had to deal with additional paperwork and customs rules even though the UK and EU agreed a trade deal just before Christmas.

Delays have ensued as a result and the BMPA said today (9 February) the impact is being felt by UK meat exporters.

“The new border and customs regime has all but halted small, mixed, just-in-time deliveries of British pork chops, sausages and other meat products to supermarkets and customers in the EU and Northern Ireland,” it said.

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Broadcaster the BBC reported today UK supermarket groups with stores in the EU are facing supply problems because of the post-Brexit rules on exports. Similar problems have been reported in Northern Ireland which, because it has a border with EU member Ireland, has to check goods arriving from mainland UK at customs points.

The BMPA said: “The problem is that it’s now not viable to send a single lorry load of mixed products from different UK businesses to different EU or Northern Irish customers to stock their shelves for the following few days. 

“We did hear of a lorry going to Northern Ireland taking just four pallets of a single product (it should have been carrying 23) to get supplies to a supermarket, but that’s not sustainable.”

BMPA CEO Nick Allen said: "The new system is adding an average of 30 hours into the process; and the costs to ship these loads are now around 60% higher than last year.

"This is caused by a combination of additional charges from HMRC and their French counterpart, extra customs agents' and veterinary charges to process the paperwork and haulage charges that have risen four-fold due to delays at the border. On top of that, freight insurers are raising premiums or simply refusing to insure loads."

Allen said that a load could be delivered into an EU hub and then further distributed to customers but suggested this is not viable for all but the very largest meat companies. 

"One unintended consequence is that British firms are now registering EU businesses to bypass the export problems meaning Britain is now losing jobs and business," he said.

"Because of this situation, consignments of British meat heading to customers on the continent are still below 50% of normal volume, with some companies doing no exports at all. And this inability to export the parts of the carcass that Brits don't buy means that meat processing becomes less profitable which will eventually hit livestock prices for British farmers."

Allen is calling for co-operation between the UK and the EU to "re-negotiate and re-design the system from top to bottom".

He added: "Whatever is being discussed by [UK Cabinet Office minister] Michael Gove and [European Commission vice president] Maroš Šefcovic to ease trade barriers with Northern Ireland should also apply to trade with the EU."

just-food asked the UK government for a response to Allen's request.

A spokesperson said:  "All exports of live animals and products of animal origin to the EU now require an Export Health Certificate signed by an official vet. We've always been clear that there would be new processes for traders, and we continue to support them in their transition to these new arrangements.    
"We are working closely with British meat processors to ensure they can take advantage of the opportunities and changes being outside the single market and customs union will bring, and overall businesses are adjusting well to the new rules and continue to trade effectively."