The outcome would eliminate jobs, increase consumer prices and destroy the livelihood of small business owners in the sector, the report claimed.
“Brexit is a disaster,” the UECBV (the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union) secretary general Jean-Luc Meriaux told GlobalMeatNews, before releasing The EU Meat Industry in a Hard Brexit Scenario: Crisis report today (27 November).
UECBV president Philippe Borremans emphasised “by cutting off one of the largest and highest-value meat markets in Europe”, Brexit’s potential impact was “much greater than the Russian political embargo on EU agri-food exports”. The EU would find it much more difficult to find alternative markets for diverted meat products, he claimed.
Huge job losses
The UECBV commissioned strategic communications and campaigns consultancy Red Flag to see how great the impact of a hard Brexit would be. “The findings confirm our worst fears,” Borremans said in the report’s introduction.
Top-line figures in the report include that after a no-deal or hard Brexit, the meat sector would face the highest tariffs of all sectors under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. The estimated average UK tariff rate would be close to 50%, exceeding 100% for some products including manufacturing beef.
The analysis reveals export costs from tariff barriers, customs and veterinary checks – estimated at 625 per consignment – and increased transport costs would massively slash exports of meat “on conservative estimates” from the EU to the UK.
Tariff ‘price shock’
Trade to the UK could fall by up to 84% for beef, 48% for pig meat and 76% for sheep meat, it stated. EU imports of beef, pig and sheep meat would fall 90%, 56% and 53% respectively. Similar WTO tariffs would be imposed on British exports to EU countries, according to the analysis.
“This price shock would reduce the value of EU production of beef by approximately €2.4 billion in the short run, and of pigmeat by over €2.3 billion,” the report warned.
In addition, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) would be particularly affected by additional veterinary and health checks on animal products. These would increase costs “at current trade levels” by an extra €43m per year.
Finally, a hard Brexit would cause at least 32,000 job losses across the EU at farm level, through processing and distribution, the report reveals.
To avert the crisis, the EU meat industry must be given a sufficiently long transitional period to allow businesses to adjust to new arrangements, according to the Red Flag analysis.
Other recommendations were for a future trading relationship that created “a minimum burden for businesses, especially SMEs [small-and-medium-sized enterprises]” and maintained the status quo as far as possible.
In addition, the UECBV-commissioned report said that, in any post-Brexit scenario, there must be regulatory convergence between the UK and the EU, with market support mechanisms to facilitate the transition for businesses in the meat industry.
These mechanisms would include increasing international market access and introducing a simplified sealed container system that avoided the need for separate customs checks.