MEP calls for checks on food to be reviewed under Brexit agreement

An Irish MEP has called for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on food to be reviewed under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Seán Kelly, MEP for the Ireland South constituency, said that such a review should take place as a matter of priority.

“Although the realities, and indeed consequences, of Brexit are causing many difficulties for businesses, agriculture and even households, it is important to recognise that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, together with the Northern Ireland Protocol, secured Ireland’s key objectives in the Brexit process,” Kelly highlighted.

However, there is no doubt that this agreement was a mitigation exercise.

He added: “Avoiding a ‘no-deal’ was particularly important for the agri-food sector, which would have been subject to devastating tariffs, such as 72% on our beef exports of €1 billion per year.

“However, it is not exactly a rosy situation now that the deal is done with the extra costs imposed by necessary checks and controls,” the MEP noted.

Kelly argued: “However, there is room under the EU-UK trade agreement to allow Irish-British supplies to flow more smoothly. The review of the procedures in place for SPS checks on food of animal and plant origin and live animals by inspectors needs to be a priority.

The current increase in costs across long-established and highly integrated supply chains between Ireland and Britain is not sustainable, and this needs to be understood by both the European Commission and UK government.

Kelly, who is a member of the European Parliament’s trade committee, said that the trade agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol “need to be practical”.

“Last week’s ill-advised move from the commission to consider triggering Article 16 of the protocol, and the fiasco of the Internal Markets Bill [a law that the UK government tried to pass that would have overrode part of the protocol] has showed the potential volatility in our new relationship, so cooperation will not just come about automatically.

It needs regular and robust dialogue in good faith and this should include regularly reviewing SPS measures applied by the EU and the UK, including certification requirements and border clearance processes.

Kelly concluded: “Disruption to fisheries and other sectors will arise down the line… A tone of practical discussion needs to be the norm with the ongoing negotiations with the UK. This will be pivotal for Ireland.”