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UK meat traders face being locked out of Dutch market amid Brexit red tape

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Morebattle, Kelso, Scottish Borders, UK. 24th January 2020. Four week old pigs indoors on a farm near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. The pigs sleep in groups for warmth, and self designate areas of the barn for sleeping, foraging, and latrines.
Importers have 90 days to sort out any issues under Dutch rules before the goods need to be sent back to their home country or be destroyed. Photo: Getty

Dutch customs have warned UK meat traders to have the correct animal health paperwork if they want to import meat products into Europe as a non-EU country.

EU law requires all veterinary health certificates to be in order before products can enter the 27 member states.

Importers have 90 days to sort out any issues under Dutch rules before the goods need to be sent back to their home country or be destroyed.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has said that alongside five containers of British pork stuck in Holland for two weeks, a lorry carrying pork livers has been refused entry.

Responding to the BMPA, the Dutch NVWA Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority denied reports that British pork is rotting in Rotterdam’s harbour due to Brexit red tape. But, the country’s food safety authority admitted that it might now not be fit for human consumption.

A NVWA spokesperson said: “In the last period, a number of transports of carcasses from the UK have arrived in Rotterdam without the correct documentation.

“The correct documents then need to be made for them in the UK, and experience tells us that this correction can sometimes take longer than the use-by-date of these products.”

The country’s food safety authority admitted that if delays due to paperwork happen that products “are no longer suitable” for human consumption. “But we are certainly not talking about rotten meat,” the spokesperson added.

UK exports account for about 17% of the UK meat processing industry’s revenue with most coming from customers in France, Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands, according to BMPA.

The meat association says that beef accounts for the largest share of export revenue (40%), this is followed by lamb and sheep at around 36%, with pork bringing in around 20%.

WATCH: France, Ireland cut UK trade route after Brexit

A spokesperson for the Belastingdienst — the Dutch customs authority — said that the role of the customs services is to “just check” if all papers are in order to allow access, if they aren’t then the goods can’t “go through.”

“From a customs perspective, containers cannot stay in the harbour for more than 90 days. Then they need to go back or to be destroyed. This almost never happens — if you have to keep a chilled container cold for 90 days, all your profit evaporates…so companies don’t let that happen,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, the Dutch border police have said that lorries going through the UK will be subject to “intense checks” to prevent people being “smuggled abroad” to enter Britain illegally.

READ MORE: Irish government scoffs at UK claim Brexit not causing empty shelves

Earlier in January, British hauliers had their ham sandwiches confiscated at the Dutch border, with customs officers telling them “welcome to Brexit."

Under new Brexit laws, which came into effect on 1 January, the personal importation of meat and diary products is banned.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that commercial drivers will "not be able to bring products of an animal origin (POAO) such as those containing meat or diary” into the EU

Britain which officially left Europe in January 2020 had been trading on EU terms up until 31 December last year.

The UK clinched a last-minute Brexit agreement with the bloc on Christmas Eve, which will see tariff-free and quota-free trading between the pair.

Under the agreement, food and goods imported into the UK from third countries and then shipped to the EU will face charges. The deal also introduces new customs checks and paperwork at the border.