During the last weeks, FruitVegetablesEUROPE has been actively contacting EU and UK institutions regarding the negotiations for a future Trade Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom, and particularly, the impact that UK import tariffs will have on the European fruit and vegetables producing/exporting sector.
Several letters were sent, particularly to EU Brexit Chief negotiator Mr Michel Barnier and EU commissioners for Trade and Agriculture. FruitVegetablesEUROPE has recalled that putting tariffs on EU fruit and vegetables would have a catastrophic impact on the EU exporting sector, as UK is the third destination for the EU export, after Germany and France. Furthermore, EU exporters will have to compete with 3rd countries which are exempted from this tariff rate (Mediterranean and southern hemisphere competitors already have preferential agreements signed at 0% tariff rate) and do not meet EU high quality, social, environmental and phytosanitary standards. EU producers and exporters have spent years opening and consolidating UK’s premium market orientated to high quality products where taste, freshness and safety are the main requirements. Unfortunately, there is no alternative premium market for EU production and the Russian market is still closed. In that sense, FruitVegetablesEUROPE reiterates that the future trade relationship between the EU and the UK is crucial for the EU fruit and vegetable sector.
Since the beginning of the negotiations FruitVegetablesEUROPE has asked the EU not to sacrifice the EU Agricultural sector in the negotiations with the UK. It is imperative and urgent that the EU takes into consideration all productive sectors of the European Union equally: Agriculture, Industry and Services.
On 10th December, FruitVegetablesEUROPE also organised a Working Group (WG) on Legislation dedicated to the Brexit. The WG entitled "Brexit: implications for the EU fruit and vegetables sector" provided EU producers and exporters with a global picture of the future trade relation between the EU and the UK and its impact on the EU fruit and vegetables sector.
Different speakers from the fruit and vegetables sector (Mr Jorge Brotóns, FEPEX President), the UK Government (Victoria Clarke, DEFRA), the European Commission (Joao Onofre, DG AGRI) and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the UK (Igor Urra, Secretary General) delivered useful information to better understand the complex new situation after the Brexit.
The WG was opened by FruitVegetablesEUROPE President, Juan Marín, who pronounced a speech where he indicated the state of current negotiations between the EU and the UK, certain implications that BREXIT will have on the fruit and vegetable sector and the demands made by FruitVegetablesEUROPE to both negotiating parties.
DEFRA representative focused on the “Great Britain Phytosanitary controls from 1st January 2021”. The Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the UK concentrated on “The British market after Brexit: challenges and opportunities”. A discussion on “The Brexit, a new EU/UK relationship: implications for the EU fruit and vegetables sector” also took place Mr Joao Onofre (DG AGRI, Horticultural products).
FruitVegetablesEUROPE will continue fighting for the European Fruit and Vegetables sector.
Juan Marín, FruitVegetablesEUROPE President highlighted that: “FruitVegetablesEUROPE has being calling upon both sides, the UK Government and the European Commission to actively negotiate to reach an agreement on:
- the maintenance of a free trade area with customs and regulatory cooperation;
- the absence of tariffs for EU fruit and Vegetables. In the event of no deal by the 31st December 2020, a moratorium on the application of tariffs should be applied for EU fruit and vegetables;
- to establish swift procedures so that export documents could be processed in real time.
- to establish "green lines" to transport perishable goods such as European fruit and vegetables, which may be affected by delays in UK customs from 1st January 2021.
This will allow the flow of EU exports of fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK to be maintained, and will avoid market uncertainty and speculation.
Jorge Brotóns, FEPEX President pointed out that: “what it is clear is that the announcement of UK exit from the EU was never a good new for the sector. The Brexit will have negative implications for the EU fruit and vegetables sector. There will be a competitive disadvantage with countries which have no tariffs when exporting to UK. Furthermore, there is absolute uncertainty about whether there will be a trade deal or whether we will face a hard Brexit on 1st January 2021. EU producers and exporters cannot support a BREXIT with no-deal. FEPEX's president also warned that tariffs will absolutely damage trade with the UK. The Brexit is currently "the biggest concern" of the entire sector because the United Kingdom is the Third destination for its exports.
Alba Ridao-Bouloumié, Secretary General, stressed: “UK is a consolidated market for EU producers and exporters. Currently, there is no alternative market for the EU production. Even more, with the Russian market still closed. Consequently, the EU must guarantee the maintenance of a free trade area with customs and regulatory cooperation with the UK. As well as the absence of tariffs for EU fruit and Vegetables. Furthermore, it would be necessary to establish swift procedures so that export documents could be processed in real time. This will allow the flow of EU exports of fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK to be maintained, and will avoid market uncertainty and speculation. The establishment of "green lines" to transport perishable goods would be crucial for our sector.