Meat processors in Great Britain are having to export carcasses destined for domestic consumption to the EU for butchering because of the shortage of skilled workers in the industry.
Beef producers are exporting carcasses to Ireland for butchering and packing, says Nick Allen, the chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, before the products are brought back to Great Britain to be sold in supermarkets.
Meanwhile, pork processors are looking into shipping pig carcasses to the Netherlands to be butchered, as first reported by the Financial Times. This is despite the government announcing a post-Brexit immigration policy U-turn last month that would temporarily extend the seasonal worker visa scheme to include pork butchers.
The move was aimed at preventing a widespread cull of healthy pigs on farms because of a lack of capacity at abattoirs and meat processing plants. However, 10,000 of the animals have been killed so far, according to the National Pig Association, and the cull continues.
After last month’s visa change, 800 pork butchers are to be allowed to enter the country for six months. Yet farmers and meat processors are still waiting for the workers to arrive and do not expect any of them before the end of November at the earliest.
One problem for pork producers is that any meat exported to the EU for butchering would not be allowed to be labelled as British pork when reimported to the UK for sale.
“It’s a sign of how desperate things are getting,” Allen said. “On the beef side, the Irish have access to plenty of workers. They have been granting visa licences to do what we have been asking to do and bring in butchers from abroad. They have got the plants and they are approved for the supermarkets.”
The move to export meat for processing will cost an additional £1,500 for each lorryload of carcasses, including fees for transport, as well as customs requirements introduced since Brexit, such as an export health certificate for each consignment.
Currently meat is checked in the EU when it is exported from Great Britain but not when arriving in the UK because the introduction of post-Brexit import controls on food and animals products has been delayed twice by the government and will now begin in July 2022.
“It’s not too bad at the moment because there are no checks coming into this country but once they start to do the checks it might not be such a good idea as a long-term solution, depending on how the customs work,” Allen said.
Meat processors have been reporting widespread shortages across the industry for some time, and caution that a six-month temporary visa may be too short to improve the situation.
“We have been saying we are between 10,000 and 12,000 short of these type of workers, 800 doesn’t go very far, it has been made very clear it is only for six months and they go again,” Allen said. “We are looking at 18 months or longer to train these people.”
Recent government initiatives have not made a difference yet for pig farmers struggling to house and feed large pigs that should have gone to slaughter already, said Zoe Davies, the chief executive of the National Pig Association.
“We are in limbo,” Davies said. “Some processors are saying they won’t come until mid-December, and then they are worried they won’t come as it is just before Christmas.
“Butchers are the most meaningful thing we can have. If we get them on the floor we will start moving more pigs.”
Davies added that pork producers are concerned that the minimum salary requirement for temporary butchers has been set at £25,600, while the firms bringing workers would also be required to pay for their flights to the UK and accommodation in the country.
More than 1,000 universities and 50 academies of science across Europe have called on the EU to “immediately” finalise the UK’s membership of its flagship £80bn research programme and end the 10-month delay to the ratification process.
In a letter to the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, they say the lengthy delay is “endangering current and future plans for collaboration” and any further delay will “result in a major weakening of our collective research strength”.
The letter comes amid fears that the seven-year Horizon Europe programme is collateral damage in a wider political dispute between the UK and the EU over fishing and the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
The UK was due to contribute about £2bn a year to stay in the programme with funds returned in the form of leading-edge research projects to British universities and research institutes on everything from vaccines to climate change technologies.
Now scientists say the painstaking job of putting project teams and proposals together, which can often take a year to complete, are being jeopardised because of the uncertainty over the UK’s status in potential research consortiums.
They urge Von der Leyen to put politics aside and press the green button on the UK’s associate membership.
“Horizon Europe’s success will hinge on its commitment to excellence and global outlook. The only way to move forward from the Covid pandemic is as a global community working together to drive research and innovation through collaboration,” they say in their letter.
The UK was one of the leading countries in the EU research programme before Brexit, responsible for just under 15% of all funds awarded.
A spokesman for the Russell Group of universities said the UK was the second biggest beneficiary of the Horizon 2020 programme after Germany, winning £7.8bn in funds for 10,000 projects over the past seven years.
But it has now been caught up in the crosshairs of double battles between the UK and the EU over fishing and Northern Ireland.
The Brexit minister, David Frost, last week said the EU was close to breaching its commitment in the trade deal and wanted swift action, particularly after other non-EU countries including Norway had already had their membership ratified.
Signatories to the letter include the heads of major research representative bodies including the All European Academies, the European Universities Association, CESAER, the Belgian science group and German U15, an association of 15 of the leading medical universities in Germany.
Brexit swiped £17bn from UK trade with the EU in just three months as new costs and red tape punished businesses, a spending watchdog has found.
Firms also filled in an extraordinary 48 million customs declarations and 140,000 export health certificates in the eight months after the UK left the single market and customs union, the National Audit Office (NAO) finds.
Its report raises the alarm over the government shelving import controls, warning it could face action for not “complying with international trading rules” – while UK exporters are put at a “disadvantage”.
But it also warns some of 41 ports needing upgrades might not have been ready if the controls had been introduced this year and that traders will still face “significant risks” when they are.
The verdict comes as the economic damage from leaving the EU becomes clearer – after the Office for Budget Responsibility said GDP will fall by 4 per cent, twice the loss from the Covid pandemic.
All trade deals combined worth less than 50p per person a year, analysis of government figures shows
Boris Johnson has boasted of the deals creating a “new dawn” and representing “global Britain at its best” – but just two of the dozens announced since the UK left the EU are expected to have any measurable economic impact at all.
Official estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility point to a Brexit loss of over £1,250 per person over the coming years – over 178 times the most optimistic prediction for the benefits from the trade deals.
The analysis notes that the vast majority of FTAs announced by the government – such as those with South Korea, Singapore, or Vietnam – are simply attempts to replace treaties that those countries have with the EU, which Britain previously enjoyed as a member.
“They add nothing to UK trade, and, because they are not perfect replicas, actually harm it very slightly,“ wrote top trade economist Professor L. Alan Winters, who conducted the analysis with Guillermo Larbalestier, the centre’s research officer.
The prospect of a trade war between the UK and the EU has edged closer, with Ireland giving the clearest hint yet that Brussels plans to suspend the entire trade deal struck last December if the British government suspends the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
The Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, accused the UK of “deliberately forcing a breakdown” in negotiations over Northern Ireland, adding that there was still time to step back from the brink.
“The trade and cooperation agreement that was agreed between the British government and the EU was contingent on the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, which includes the protocol.
“One is contingent on the other, and so if one has been set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU,” he told RTE on Sunday.
His comments confirm speculation that the EU will not dwell on its options if the UK triggers article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, but will instead deploy measures in the wider Brexit withdrawal agreement that allow cross-retaliation.
The EU would have to serve the UK with 12 months’ notice, but it would have a devastating impact on British business, industry leaders warned. Shane Brennan, head of the Cold Chain Federation, said businesses would be “sacrificed” with “a near prohibition on UK food exports”.
Coveney’s comments come amid heightened expectation that article 16 will be triggered by the UK after the Cop26 climate crisis summit in Glasgow ends on Friday.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the UK has begun work on a post-article-16 scenario, with plans to pull funds from the Horizon Europe research programme and go it alone with alternatives.
Coveney said there was still time for the UK to pull back from the brink, but that the EU felt that every time it offered an olive branch to the UK, the response of the British was to harden its position and “constantly raise new problems”. “You have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why are they doing that if they’re acting in good faith?’”
Ireland’s European commissioner, Mairead McGuinness, said on Sunday that suspending the trade deal would be “very severe and something the EU would want to prevent”. However, she said patience with the UK was wearing thin.
“Europe cannot stand by if article 16 is triggered [and ask], ‘What next? What does this mean?’ All of the work we’ve done as a commission is to try and solve problems, not to create them. But we have to be very firm as well,” she said. “If Lord Frost is entering the room with article 16 in his pocket, not willing to actually negotiate, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Do we continue on that basis?’”
The row is also fuelling fears that a collapse in talks will result in pressure on the Dublin government to impose customs and standards checks on the island of Ireland. McGuinness gave assurances that the EU would not make such a demand. “There will be no border on the island,” she said. “There’s a huge sensitivity around this.”
Talks between the EU and the UK enter their fourth week this week, with the Brexit minister, David Frost, to meet his counterpart, Maroš Šefčovič, on Friday.
Ireland has begun making contingency plans for a possible trade war between the EU and the UK in the event that Boris Johnson walks away from the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, also confirmed that suspending the trade deal struck by Lord Frost last December was the EU’s likely response should the UK trigger article 16 of the protocol.
Her told RTE News at One on Tuesday that such a move would in effect undo the entire Brexit deal and precipitate a collapse in relations with the EU.
“I don’t think anybody wants to see the European Union suspending the trade and cooperation agreement with Britain,” he said. “But if Britain were to act in such a way that it was resigning from the protocol, resigning from the withdrawal agreement, I think the European Union would have no option other than to introduce what we call rebalancing measures to respond.”
Varadkar, who as taoiseach negotiated the protocol with Johnson during a meeting in the Wirral in October 2019, added: “I really hope that Britain doesn’t go down this road. Prime minister Johnson always spoke about wanting Brexit done.
“Brexit is kind of done, but [this] potentially undoes it and I don’t think it would be good for us, for Great Britain, and I don’t see how it would be good for Northern Ireland. And bear in mind the protocol is broadly supported by people in business and most political parties in Northern Ireland, and nobody is yet putting forward a preferable alternative to that.”
Talks between the EU and the UK over the protocol have entered their third week but sources in Brussels remain pessimistic.
Varadkar told RTE there was a cabinet sub-meeting on Brexit on Monday to “essentially dust down and restart our contingency preparations should we get into difficulty”.
The EU would have to serve notice it was suspending the trade deal so there would be no immediate barriers imposed on exporters. However, this would send alarm bells throughout business and potentially damage the UK’s relationship not only with the EU but also the US.
There are also fears that countries with significant trade links with the UK, including France, Ireland and the Benelux countries, could immediately impose 100% physical checks on lorries entering from Great Britain, causing traffic chaos on the roads in Kent.
Last December, thousands of lorry drivers were forced to spend Christmas in their cabs in Kent lorry parks and at roadsides after France demanded each driver have a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a ferry or Eurotunnel train.
The EU’s Brexit commissioner will tell David Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, that negotiations over Northern Ireland are doomed to fail unless he drops an “unattainable” demand over the role of the European court of justice.
At a meeting in London on Friday, Maroš Šefčovič will warn his British counterpart, Lord Frost, that Downing Street needs to “take a step” towards the EU for the talks to be “meaningful”.
There is growing concern in Brussels that Boris Johnson has already decided to trigger article 16 of the protocol on Northern Ireland in the coming weeks in order to suspend the post-Brexit arrangements and impose his own vision.
Brussels is preparing a “ladder” of retaliatory options, up to suspending the trade deal agreed last Christmas Eve, while seeking to convince the UK of the virtues of its approach.
“We think that the objectives set out by the UK are unattainable,” said a senior EU official. “The UK position is that the role of the EU’s institution needs to go ... As long as that remains the UK position, I don’t see what we can do.”
The talks over the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland are in their fourth week. A protocol in the withdrawal agreement Johnson signed keeps Northern Ireland in the single market and draws a customs border down the Irish Sea in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
In October, the EU offered to drastically reduce the number of checks on goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in recognition of the political and economic disruption being caused.
But the UK is insisting that the protocol needs a more fundamental redrafting including the removal of the European court of justice from its role as arbiter of EU law.
Brussels has countered that Northern Ireland cannot maintain single market access without the ECJ remaining as the chief arbiter of EU law.
“The UK wants us to engage in intensive talks and we are happy to do so,” an EU official said before Friday’s meeting. “But then the UK must take a step towards us to ensure that the talks are meaningful.
“If the UK wants these discussions to succeed, then the major step that we took on 13 October needs to be reciprocated. On questions around governance and the court of justice we have always made clear that we think that the objectives set out by the UK are unattainable.”
Brussels believes the UK is being too dogmatic in its approach, raising concerns about the sincerity of the prime minister’s desire to find a solution.
EU officials point to attempts to answer concerns over the collection of VAT in Northern Ireland. Downing Street has complained that evolution in the EU law book that applies in Northern Ireland could put traders there at a disadvantage compared with those based in the rest of the UK.
An EU official said: “There is a specific provision in the protocol, which gives a role to the joint committee for finding solutions where the application of VAT principles under the protocol creates issues in Northern Ireland. It’s one of the sub-paragraphs of article eight.
“On that point, for example, we say why don’t we use the mechanisms specifically provided for in the protocol to see how far we can go. And yet the UK having never tried that calls for a radically different approach to VAT which would require a renegotiation of the protocol.”
Speaking in the House of Lords on Wednesday, Frost had urged the EU to “keep calm”. “In my view, this process of negotiations has not reached its end,” he said. “Although we have been talking for nearly four weeks, there remain possibilities that the talks have not yet seriously examined, including many approaches that have been suggested by the UK.”
After a week of recriminations and the threat of a trade war, the European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič , said there had been a change in tone from the UK’s Brexit minister, David Frost, confirming the UK had stepped back from the brink of triggering article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol.
He confirmed talks would continue for a fifth week but said serious headway was still needed with the UK’s red line over the European court of justice was still an obstacle.
“I acknowledge and welcome the change in tone of discussion with David Frost today, and I hope this will lead to tangible results for the people in Northern Ireland,” he told reporters at news conference in London after the talks.
In a statement, Lord Frost’s office said “significant gaps remain to be bridged” and that the threat of article 16 remained on the table. But it noted that Frost’s preference was “to find a consensual way forward”.
Šefčovič told reporters at a news conference that the people of Northern Ireland deserved a solution from politicians. “That is why I raised forcefully that we need to make serious headway in the course of next week,” he said.
“This is particularly important as regards the issue of medicines. An uninterrupted long-term supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is the protocol-related issue on everyone’s mind in Northern Ireland.”
However, he added: “On the European court, on our side definitely nothing has changed.”
... ... ...
In October 2020 Boris Johnson said Brexit would enable Britain to take back “full control of our money, our borders and our laws”.
Nevertheless, while the overall number of people fleeing conflict and claiming asylum in the UK has fallen to 31,115 in the last 12 months, the number crossing from France to the UK in small boats has risen sharply since the UK parted company from the EU.
Previously, when the UK was part of the EU, under a mechanism known as Dublin the UK could ask other EU countries to take back people they could prove had passed through safe European countries before reaching the UK.
The UK could make “take charge” requests and officials were often able to prove that asylum seekers had passed through other countries thanks to the Eurodac fingerprint database. But since Brexit the UK no longer has access to that database, so it is harder to prove definitively which other European countries small boat arrivals to the UK have previously passed through.
The UK has not so far struck any bilateral agreements with other EU countries to enable it to replicate the Dublin arrangement. Instead officials have labelled many claims where they suspect people have passed through other European countries before reaching the UK as “inadmissible”.
In practice this means many asylum seekers are languishing in the system for extended periods but are not being sent to other countries.
Even before the UK left the EU, only a few hundred people were sent to other European countries in 2020.
... ... ...
Voters now want to rejoin the EU, polls show, in evidence that good shortages and spats with Brussels are fuelling disillusionment with Brexit.
A four-point surge in support for reversing the 2016 referendum means 53 per cent back membership in a survey by Savanta ComRes, with 47 per cent wanting to stay out of the EU.
One in ten Leave voters want to rejoin the bloc, as do one in five Conservative supporters, the poll found – while 40 per cent of adults back a fresh referendum within the next 5 years.
Strikingly, it is the second survey in recent days to have produced the same 6-point margin of favour of EU membership – nearly one year after Brexit was completed.
Savanta ComRes pointed to “momentum shifting towards a majority who would now vote to rejoin the EU”, despite no political party advocating the policy.
One in eight traders have lost business – while a quarter of small firms consider moving operations out of Britain, Dispatches reports
Brexit has forced UK firms to pay tariffs on up to £9.5bn of exports to the EU despite Boris Johnson claiming he struck a “tariff-free” deal, an investigation has found.
More than one in eight traders say they have lost business since it came into force in January – some reporting their exports have disappeared completely, a TV documentary reveals.
More than a quarter of small firms say they are now considering moving some of their European operations out of Britain, while 16 per cent have already done so, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme will report.
The revelations come after the Treasury’s watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, warned the Brexit trade deal will cut GDP by 4 per cent, swiping £80bn a year from the UK economy.
Ministers were also forced to concede that EU withdrawal was a key cause behind the autumn food and fuel shortages – which have put Christmas deliveries at risk.