Northern Ireland should learn from Brexit ‘shambles’ says QT guest
The mayors of the French ports of the Channel and the North Sea are calling for the creation of a “European health coordination force” dedicated to quality control of food products imported from Great Britain. For the municipalities facing the northern coast of France, the post-Brexit EU runs the risk of “downward competition between European ports” which, in order to receive more goods and generate a higher turnover, could lower the level and frequency of health quality checks and phytosanitary.
“We cannot have doubts about the quality of our food,” former premier Edouard Philippe, mayor of Le Havre, Natacha Bouchart of Calais, Patrice Vergriete, from Dunkirk, Frederic Cuvillier from Boulogne-Sur-Mer and Pascal Canfin, president of the Environment and Health Committee of the European Parliament wrote in an appeal published in Le Monde.
“The implementation of the trade agreement with the United Kingdom cannot lead to a difference in treatment between European ports,” they continued.
According to the administrators of the port cities, EU initiatives are needed to protect imported goods, as there is evidence of the “dumping strategy that the British government seems to want to promote”, citing as evidence “its recent statements in favour of the development of GMOs and the authorisation of neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK, while they are banned for European farmers”.
A cause for concern is the possibility that products destined for Northern Ireland, therefore with British health and environmental standards that differ from those in force in Europe, may eventually end up illegally on the European market.
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For the signatories of the open letter, the strengthening of customs capacities launched by individual EU countries is already a first step, but it is not enough.
They said: “Each country in the European Union has strengthened its customs capacities, and we welcome this. However, we ask that this strengthening be accompanied by coordination beyond French borders.
“We cannot have any doubts about the quality of our food.
“The implementation of the trade agreement with the UK can not suffer any difference in treatment between European ports.
“We, therefore, ask the French government to propose to the European Commission and its European partners the creation of a European health coordination force between the actors most concerned: the cities and the coastal port authorities of the Channel and the North Sea, as well as national and European authorities.
“This strength will ensure that the implementation of the Brexit deal is consistent and effective across Europe.
“We owe it to consumers, farmers and businesses in Europe.
“The dumping strategy which the UK Government seems to be promoting reinforces our conviction that new initiatives are needed to protect our interests and values.”
Yesterday, Environment Secretary George Eustice was warned the entire fishing industry could be destroyed if ministers do not fix customs clearance technology at the border.
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SNP MP Stuart C McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) told the Environment Secretary that Scottish seafood companies were concerned they were “going out of business” with their produce “sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance”.
His comments came as other MPs queried whether the meat industry was also “in jeopardy” after newspapers reported this week that pigs heads were “rotting in Rotterdam”.
But Mr Eustice assured MPs that while there were “occasionally delays at the border”, in general, “goods are flowing”.
Speaking in the Commons during environment departmental questions, Mr McDonald said: “Scotland’s high-quality seafood producers are warning that they’re going out of business.
“They can’t have their products sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance, those products have to reach the market-fresh.
“So what is the Government doing to change the procedures and fix the technology to ensure an entire industry isn’t destroyed, and will there be ongoing compensation offered to business until this is sorted, or was that a one-off?”
Mr Eustice responded: “We have announced a £23million fund to help those exporters who struggled with the paperwork in these initial weeks.
“We’ve also been working daily with the fishing sector to tackle and iron out any particular issues that they’ve encountered.”
He added that the problems were simply “teething issues”.
Meanwhile, shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner told the Commons: “I fear the Secretary of State is living in a parallel universe.
“He must have seen the headlines ‘pig heads rotting in Rotterdam’ as Brexit delays hit the British meat industry,” and asked if the meat industry was “in jeopardy”.
Mr Eustice said: “He is wrong about that actually. Goods are flowing, particularly when it comes to lamb, which is our principal meat export. Dairy goods are also flowing.
“Yes, there are occasionally delays at the border as border officials in France and The Netherlands get used to these new processes, but we are intervening in all such instances to help the businesses concerned.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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