09 June 2021
Ahead of today's (Wednesday 9 June) Joint Committee meeting the business group is calling on both parties to seize the moment by building on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), by exploring a bespoke solution, meeting the challenges for both GB-NI and EU-GB trade.
Since the implementation of the TCA, UK firms have gone to extraordinary lengths to adjust, often encountering delays to cross border trade and incurring increased costs when doing business with the UK’s largest trading partner. While recent data shows trade between the UK and EU picking up, it remains below 2020 levels.
The CBI’s conversations with businesses and trade associations across the economy – including the retail, agricultural and food and drink sectors, all point to the need for a bespoke agreement to ease increased frictions for moving agri-food goods between GB, Northern Irish and EU markets. The EU already has a similar agreement with New Zealand.
Alongside a bespoke veterinary agreement, which could alleviate issues faced by firms moving goods between GB-NI and EU-GB, businesses are also pressing common ground on SPS checks and for a Trusted Trader Scheme to protect UK internal market movements of authorised operators between GB and NI.
This is especially important ahead of extra checks due from October 1. Currently UK importers and EU exporters are yet to feel the full force of additional compliance. In 2019, the EU exported €41 billion worth agri-food goods to the UK, making up 74% of the total UK imports for the same year. There is now a limited window of opportunity to protect these trade flows.
John Foster, CBI Director of Policy, said:
“Getting back to the business of trade by normalising relations between the UK and EU is the top priority for firms.
“This requires developing lasting solutions to the challenges we’re currently confronted with, enabling all communities to focus on economic growth. This is the best way to eclipse the political wrangling of the past and will be time well spent.
“Increases in paperwork, compliance costs and delays help no-one, especially when you consider there’s been no discernible change to animal welfare standards.
“By agreeing an approach where both parties create some form of recognition of each other’s animal health and veterinary rules, the majority of SPS checks could be removed for goods between the EU and Great Britain, and Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Exploring these solutions before grace periods end in the coming months will help bolster trade and support the ongoing recoveries across Europe.”
Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said:
“A smooth implementation of the Protocol is the number one priority for Northern Ireland’s businesses. A bespoke veterinary agreement would show good faith by both sides, while improving choices on shelves and keeping prices low for consumers.
“These solutions flow from widespread engagement with businesses across the island of Ireland, so we hope all those involved will give them due consideration.
“Restoring trust, smoothing trade and reducing tensions must be uppermost in policymakers’ minds.”