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Unlike other EU trading partners, the UK does not currently have a veterinary agreement with the bloc

The British Meat Processors Association has called on the UK and EU to hammer out a deal and revive trade in animal-origin goods after a fall in volumes of around a fifth last year.

“Millions of pounds are being spent on extra paperwork and checks, but for zero extra benefit to British companies,” said BMPA CEO Nick Allen, who added the government “could solve this problem by entering into a veterinary agreement with the EU”.

The BMPA said the extra paperwork and administration needed to fulfil Export Health Certificate requirements to ship products of animal origin to the EU had cost the sector ”just shy of £60m” last year.

The EU updated its certification regime last month, leading to fresh confusion among British dairy and seafood exporters about the requirements.

Certification rules imposed in the wake of Brexit had earlier added to other "new costs and overheads that previously didn’t exist”, the BMPA said. “These include extra administrative staff, additional paperwork, record keeping and systems to support the issuing of EHCs, port charges, customs agents’ fees”,

A veterinary deal "would instantly negate the need for most of the current bureaucracy and physical border checks and give British exporters a fighting chance to regain the trade they’ve lost”, Allen said.

Despite a revival from mid-year as businesses got to grips with post-Brexit trading, the UK’s overall annual food, drink and tobacco exports to the EU had fallen by £2.7bn by November, going by European Commission data.

The BMPA, British Veterinary Association and CBI were among the organisations that last year called on the two sides to come to terms on a veterinary agreement.

The EU has agreed 12 phyto-sanitary deals, which in some cases include veterinary rules. Major agriculture exporters Canada and New Zealand are among the countries to have agreements with EU, giving their exporters a potential edge over British rivals.

Importers could soon face similar challenges to exporters, the BMPA said, if paperwork and costs were not reduced before Britain starts physically checking food sourced from the EU in July.

”This means that EU imports will suddenly become more expensive, and European exporters will become less inclined to keep supplying to the UK,” the BMPA said.

The UK imports around half the food consumed in the country, with half those goods coming from the EU. 

The BMPA said possible price increases would “add to the UK’s cost of living woes” and leave consumers “picking up the bill”.