UFC says it has created an uneven playing field and puts our biosecurity, food safety and animal health at risk
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has slammed the UK government’s decision to suspend the introduction of new post-Brexit border checks on imports from the EU to the UK as a step backwards.
UFU president Victor Chestnutt said it is a move that must be “reconsidered immediately”.
The Government has dropped plans to impose further checks on goods entering the UK from the European Union.
Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would be "wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports" and added that no further import controls would be imposed on EU goods this year.
The change means restrictions on the imports of chilled meats from the EU and border checks on plant and animal products will not be introduced in July.
Port operators expressed frustration that time and money spent preparing for the new checks has been "wasted".
Mr Rees-Mogg said a "new regime of border import controls" will be established by the end of 2023.
Goods moving from the UK will continue to be subject to checks in the EU despite the Government deciding not to introduce the controls in Britain.
Controls which have already been introduced in the UK will remain in place.
In a statement to MPs, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "When the UK left the European Union, we regained the right to manage our own borders in a way that works for Britain.
"This includes how we manage imports into our country from overseas.
"British businesses and people going about their daily lives are being hit by rising costs caused by Russia's war in Ukraine and in energy prices.
"It would therefore be wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains at this point. The remaining import controls on EU goods will no longer be introduced this year - saving British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs."
Reacting to those plans, Mr Chestnutt said the Government’s decision to delay imposing border checks on EU imports for a fourth time, is “totally unacceptable and hugely unfair" to 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.”
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, UFC said.
Mr Chestnutt concluded: “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.”