Hard Brexit is “catastrophic” for the meat sector

The UK’s referendum result last year has certainly sparked a lot of debate and reporting about how UK, EU and global trade operates. It’s likely that many politicians and civil servants have moved up a steep learning curve on how international trade works. And that’s no bad thing. The latest contribution to the ongoing discussion, as the UK tries to work out what sort of Brexit it wants, is provided by the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) in the shape of a report that estimates the impact of Brexit on the European meat industry.

The report presents calculations on the impact on prices, incomes and jobs under a so-called “Hard Brexit” if the UK leaves the EU and trades under WTO rules. The UECBV’s President, Philippe Borremans, says, “In our view, Brexit represents the greatest current threat to European producers, consumers and distributors of meat, with a potential impact much greater than the Russian political embargo on EU agrifood exports. By potentially cutting off one of the largest and highest value meat markets in Europe, Brexit threatens to be catastrophic for the industry across Europe and the UK.”

pig trade2Borremans goes on to say, “a Hard Brexit would send shock waves through the European meat industry, eliminating jobs, increasing consumer prices and destroying the livelihood of small business owners working in the meat sector.” The impact on trade would be significant with UK pigmeat exports falling by 56% and its imports from the EU falling by 48%. . The EU27 is a net exporter of meat to the UK (although it is a net importer of sheep meat).

In the event of a Hard Brexit Scenario, the fall in trade with the UK will mean the EU27 will be left with a large surplus of meatPigprices3products, leading to a fall in the price of most meat products. The calculations by UECBV suggest pig prices would fall by 7.3% in the short run and by almost 5% in the long run. The surplus European supply is also likely to result in an increased requirement for exports of meat products to third countries.  A summary of the report is presented in the November issue of Whole Hog Brief and the full report can be downloaded at http://www.uecbv.eu/UECBV/documents/BrexitMeat_pic_hires12372.pdf