LONDON (Reuters) - Britain could be barred from exporting some food to the European Union for months if it leaves the bloc without a deal, the National Farmers Union said on Thursday after the government published reports on that scenario.
One government paper on the possible impact on organic food said British businesses would only be able to export to the EU if they were certified by an organic control body recognized and approved by the EU to operate in the UK.
Applications cannot be made, however, until Britain becomes a “third country” and approval can take up to nine months, the report added.
NFU president Minette Batters said the government’s statements were a “sobering reminder of what is at stake for farmers”, and suggested a failure to get an exit deal could have an impact beyond the organic sector.
“The technical notice for organic farming is a warning for us on the future of trade of all agri-food products - if all these products were subjected to the same problems in approvals and certification then this could result in effectively a trade embargo on exports to the EU,” she said.
“Not only would this be hugely disruptive but it threatens livelihoods and businesses in the UK.”
Britain’s largest organic certification body, the Soil Association, said a “no deal” Brexit was the worst possible outcome.
“The information outlined raises concerns that imports and exports to and from the EU may be held up for months,” Chris Atkinson, the Soil Association’s head of standards, said.
“The critical issue of continuing recognition by the EU of the organic status of products certified in the UK is left entirely unresolved by this paper and a similar document that was issued by the EU some months ago.”
Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Andrew Heavens