It’s official. Following almost a year of hard-fought negotiations a Brexit deal was sealed between the United Kingdom and Europe Union (EU) on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. The “divorce agreement” only needs to be ratified by British and European Parliaments, which is expected to be a formality.
So, after 48 years of membership in the European Economic Community, Britain will soon free to go its own way into what Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured above) has described as a “giant economic free trade zone” stimulated by regulatory competition.
Johnson declared: “We have taken back control of laws and our destiny …We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.”
British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) Chief Executive Richard Harrow, welcoming the announcement, said: “The news of the trade deal with the EU comes as a great relief to our industry, especially after such an uncertain and testing year. However, many challenges lie ahead, and the devil will be in the detail of the new agreement, but the top line information that trade will in the majority of cases be tariff and quota free is important.”
He continued: “Many BFFF members who have not previously exported outside of the EU will now find themselves exporting food even if it is only to the Republic of Ireland. From the first of January, this will require additional and often complex paperwork including Export Health Certificates for products of animal origin (POAO), pre-notification of shipments to Customs in ROI etc. – all of which will place additional burden and costs on the frozen food industry, at a time when many of our members, especially those supplying the out of home market, are struggling to stay in business.
“We still have additional complexity for moving products between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In the short term the process for some products will be simplified, but in comparison to how products move today even this has many additional stages. Also, from April 2021 members will need to provide the same level of paperwork as exporting to the EU and provide new specific labelling for Northern Ireland adding further complexity and cost.”
Prime Minister Comments
“It is four and a half years since the British people voted to take back control of their money, their borders, their laws, and their waters and to leave the European Union,” was the first sentence of the Prime Minister’s statement made following the outcome of negotiations with the European Union.”
Noting that free trade deals have already been made with 58 countries around the world and that the battle against the novel coronavirus health crisis remains Britain’s top priority at the moment, Johnson went on to voice satisfaction that on December 24 the UK has completed its biggest trade deal yet, worth £660 billion.
Excerpts from his full statement, including remarks relating directly to the agriculture and fisheries sectors, follow:
“From January 1 we are outside the customs union, and outside the single market. British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament, interpreted by UK judges sitting in UK courts. And the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end. We will be able to set our own standards, to innovate in the way that we want, to originate new frameworks for the sectors in which this country leads the world, from biosciences to financial services, artificial intelligence and beyond.
“We will be able to decide how and where we are going to stimulate new jobs and new hope, with freeports and new green industrial zones. We will be able to cherish our landscape and our environment in the way we choose, backing our farmers and backing British food and agricultural production.
“And for the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters with the UK’s share of fish in our waters rising substantially, from roughly half today to closer to two-thirds in five and a half years’ time after which there is no theoretical limit beyond those placed by science or conservation on the quantity of our own fish that we can fish in our waters.
“And to get ready for that moment those fishing communities we will be helped with a big £100 million program to modernize their fleets and the fish processing industry.”
In concluding his remarks and wishing a “Happy Christmas” to all, the Prime Minister summed up the Brexit moment by saying: “That’s the good news from Brussels – now for the sprouts.”