Sales of milk and cream to the EU are down an extraordinary 96 per cent – and chicken and beef by almost 80 per cent – because of Brexit, new figures show.
The organisation said it was “essential” that the UK urgently restarts talks with the EU to resolve the crisis – something the prime minister has so far refused to do.
The statistics lay bare how withdrawal from the EU – rather than the impact of Covid-19 – lies behind the collapse in exports, since the transition period ended on 31 December.
Food and drink exports to non-EU countries rose by 8.7 per cent, between February 2020 and February 2021, but fell by 40.9 per cent to the EU.
Downing Street has, so far, rebuffed industry calls to reopen negotiations with Brussels, other than to try to resolve the legal crisis surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
But Dominic Goudie, the FDF’s head of international trade, said: “Exports to our biggest market, Ireland, have also dropped more than two thirds.
“UK businesses continue to struggle with inconsistent and incorrect demands at EU borders, and small businesses have been hardest hit due to the collapse of groupage distribution into the EU.
“It is essential that the EU-UK partnership council and its trade specialised committees are convened to urgently address problems.”
The FDF said exports to the EU had partially bounced back from a 76 per cent fall in January – but remained 41 per cent down on a year ago. In addition:
* Imports from the EU are down 17 per cent – despite increasing from the rest of the world by nearly 6 per cent.
* Imports of pork, chicken and beef were down more than 30 per cent – and fruit and vegetables by 21 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
The Brexit trade deal has hit animal – and plant – products hardest, because it failed to include an agreement to avoid form-filling and physical inspections on so-called sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls.
They are already hurting exporters and deliveries to Northern Ireland, a problem set to grow when full Irish Sea checks – and, most crucially, controls on imports from the EU – finally come in.
Last month, a Lords committee warned plant and animal checks would become “a permanent barrier” to trade unless the UK drops its opposition to a different deal.
It rejected Mr Johnson’s claims of “teething problems” – arguing the punishing red tape is here to stay unless agreement can be reached with Brussels on common health and safety standards.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies