Remember Brexit?

Brexit is still happening, among everything else in this very busy year. The news coming that the French are threatening to block a deal with the UK over fishing rights (via has a feeling of déjà vu about it all. Once again, other industries are causing mayhem in the dairy industry – remember the Airbus-Boeing kerfuffle with the US and the tariffs EU cheese makers saw on their products into the US?

This time, France and other fishing countries face large cuts to their fishing quotas once the Brexit transition period ends. Basically, the UK gains control over its coastal waters and fisheries, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The French are obviously not happy about this and are calling it a red line where France will take a no-deal rather than one where they are denied access to fishing grounds. It is quite a pickle, really.

Ash Amirahmadi, the managing director of Arla Foods’ UK operations, warns that in the UK, “Around 40 per cent of what we consume in this country is exported from EU, so any situation which involves tariffs will have a significant impact.”

An inevitable consequence of leaving without a deal will higher costs, with grocery segment leaders saying their costs would increase by £3.1 billion with tariffs. That has to go to the consumer, in the end. An EU summit is scheduled for this Thursday, so we will see how well it ends. I am not confident in this government’s ability to negotiate properly with our largest trading partner, myself.

Hopefully there will be a compromise that doesn’t shoot dairy in the foot while preserving the British food industry and its suppliers. The EU takes a fair bit of our fishing supply, as we’ve all discovered in lockdown over the past several months.

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