beef cow

A hard Brexit would send “shockwaves” throughout the European meat industry, leading to the loss of up to 32,000 jobs across the Continent, reducing trade and hitting revenues by as much as €4.7bn (£4.2bn) a year.

That was the stark message in a new report, titled ‘Crisis’, published this week by the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV), which sought to analyse the potential impact of a hard Brexit scenario.

The study, conducted by global consultancy Red Flag, suggested that a no deal scenario would heap a greater burden on the meat industry “than almost any other sector”. It would also have a significantly greater effect than the Russian food import ban in 2014, due to the amount of displaced meat originally designated for the UK, which could flood the market, the report claimed.

Higher tariffs, additional costs of veterinary checks and customs checks and major disruption to supply chains, causing “chaos for just-in-time meat delivery systems”, would also contribute to a potentially “catastrophic” and “profoundly negative” outcome for the European meat sector, it warned.

And as the UK had a “principally deficit meat market”, the negative impacts of tougher trade barriers would be felt throughout EU, the study claimed. “As meat processing involves the disassembly of carcase to a myriad of consumer cuts and products, it thus has to find markets for all parts of the carcase and therefore the impact will be transmitted throughout the single market to affect all countries, even those with limited direct trade with UK.”

This scenario would lead to trade collapsing across the EU’s remaining member states and the UK, with potentially an 84% drop in the beef trade, and the subsequent market price shock could wipe €2.3bn off the pigmeat sector a year, and €2.4bn off the beef sector.

The report also suggested that a no deal scenario could see UK exports to the EU fall by as much as 90% for beef, 56% for pigmeat and 53% for sheepmeat.

“By potentially cutting off one of the largest and highest-value meat markets in Europe, Brexit threatens to be catastrophic for industry across Europe and UK,” said UECBV president Philippe Borremans.

“The findings of the report confirm our worst fears: a hard Brexit would send shockwaves through the European meat industry, eliminating jobs, increasing consumer prices and destroying the livelihood of small business owners working in the meat sector.”

The scale of this crisis was “simply too great to ignore”, he added. “And we implore policymakers to follow through on recommendations put forward in this report and to protect this vital European food sector.”