NSA welcomes the UK/EU trade agreement

24th December 2020

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is this afternoon (Thursday 24th December 2020) hugely relieved that both sides have seen sense and agreed a free trade deal between the UK and the EU. This has been a long time coming and required a massive investment by businesses, industry bodies and Government, and it has been taken right down to the wire.  

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “We now have a deal agreed, with 3rd country listings for animal and most plant products, which is a big relief for our sheep industry given that trading on WTO tariffs had the potential to cause serious damage to sheep farming here in the UK.  

"It is right, with Christmas now upon us, that we take a breath and celebrate this breakthrough, but no one should think this means that life will continue as it has been. We are now completely independent and will be treated as a 3rd country by the EU, meaning we will face new and additional export bureaucracy and border controls, adding costs and slowing things down, but it does at least mean that we don’t face the one thing we were dreading  - 48% tariff rates. We know that key EU countries, like France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Italy want British lamb and we now know we have a fighting chance of some semblance of continuity in our trade patterns. Our trade with the EU makes sense – it's on our doorstep, it works for both parties and it is a relief that it can now continue.

"We should still expect some disruption to trade and the movement of goods over the first month or so until things settle down and exporters and importers become au fait with new systems, but the relief in agreeing this deal is immense”.

Bryan Griffiths, NSA Chairman adds: “This is good news and a tremendous relief, but we have to remember that the whole purpose of Brexit was because the nation voted for change, and we will see changes ahead that won't always be welcome. As examples, Northern Ireland is still part of the UK's trading block, but is now within the EU's regulatory block so the movement of sheep between the GB mainland and Northern Ireland will see some major disruption. Similarly with labour provision – we are a long way from having enough abattoir workers and vets to draw from within the UK workforce, to work in plants and now to an increased workload of signing off export health certificates. We have long relied on overseas skills and willingness to work and the industry is going to have to work hard to maintain efficiency in processing and exporting.” 

NSA does not expect big volumes of lamb to be exported to the EU over the next few weeks due to high numbers of lambs being prepared for the market in advance of what was always expected to be a disrupted time but it is now hoped that we can ease back into this trade at a pace that avoids too much risk.