NFU Scotland is calling on both the UK government and the EU Commission to build on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), that came into force at the start of the year and which secured no tariffs or quotas on agri-food goods.

The union states that both sides must now look at how other trade frictions can be reduced to benefit businesses.

According to NFU Scotland, a priority must be to digitise and simplify the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) border controls that require specialist paperwork and frequent physical inspections on products of animal or plant origin.

The cost and time currently levied by these compliance requirements present a severe hindrance to trade.

It adds that mechanisms such as the new Trade Specialised Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures already exist to ensure that simplification can operate without compromising biosecurity.

Problems with trade

Last month, NFU Scotland also gave oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee where it highlighted trade problems encountered since the TAC was put in place.

NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said:

“Throughout the whole Brexit process, we’ve consistently pressed for an agreement that is as close to friction-free as possible. The TCA may be tariff and quota free, but it’s far from friction free.

That said, the end of transition did not mark the end of existing standards on either side of the Channel nor any erosion of them.

“It is abundantly clear that it is not in the interest of businesses in the UK nor the EU to allow current trade friction to continue and steps must be taken to build on the TCA to simplify and minimise the requirements needed through the likes of export health certificates and customs declarations,” he added.

“SPS border controls should be proportionate to the risks identified and able to recognise that while the UK and the EU now have separate regulatory regimes, the objectives and the way in which they operate to regulate plant and animal health are the same.

Agri-food products in the EU and the UK rightly meet high standards which are in the interest of consumer protection, animal health and welfare and the environment.

“If both sides would recognise this we could simplify processes and reduce the cost and time levied by the checks and controls that have been put in place at the borders,” he concluded.