MPs slam ‘lamentable’ delays on EU food import checks
Parliament’s all-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has expressed its “deep concern” about further government delays, announced last month, on implementing checks on food imports from the EU.
Checks on some EU imports, including fish, have now been pushed back a further three months to November 2022 – having already been deferred three times. The Committee re-iterated its fear that these delays by the government are undermining the competitiveness of British businesses and could create more incentives to move premises and jobs abroad to EU countries.
The Committee said in a letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon George Eustice MP, that the failure of the government to introduce import checks on animal-based food – when the EU had implemented checks on similar items being exported from Great Britain from 1 January 2021 – was “lamentable”.
As it highlighted in its April 2021 report on the seafood and meat trade with the EU, the Committee re-iterated that the continued absence of checks on imports of food such as meat, fish and dairy from the EU has many negative effects including undermining the competitiveness of British businesses in their home market; creating incentives to relocate factories and jobs abroad.
It also claimed the delays were increasing risks around food safety; and reducing the incentive for the EU to negotiate with Britain on such matters.
The Chair of the EFRA Committee, Neil Parish MP, said: “We’ve warned before that there must be a level playing field for British businesses. We simply cannot understand why the Government doesn’t swiftly introduce the same checks on EU food imports that the EU did for British produce from day one. The loss of competitiveness creates the risk that our farming and food businesses relocate abroad, causing job losses in rural areas – an outcome I cannot believe the government wants.
“The timetable has been revised four times – therefore the Committee has little faith in this new schedule. Enough is enough. From now on, the Committee has requested a comprehensive update on progress from the Department on the first working day of every month and for it to inform us immediately of any further delays – and the reason.”