A leaked report shows that there is some concern within the food and drink industry about the impact of Brexit on protected foodstuffs.
There is fear that, once removed from EU regulations, British manufacturers could start using protected terms like ‘champagne’ with impunity.
Local Naming Protections
The EU protections mean that only foods and drinks produced within a certain local area can lay claim to protected names, such as champagne and parma ham. EU leaders are now worried that British companies will start to misuse these names as soon as they are released from the regulations.
Meanwhile, protected British items will still be protected. EU regulations mean that member states would not be able to retaliate by using British protected names, such as Scotch whiskey.
The protection is known as GI status, standing for geographical indication. There are currently 1,150 products which fall under this umbrella. It means that companies can only use the name of a place in their product if it is from that area – hence champagne only being produced in the Champagne region, or parma ham only produced near Parma, which is very important for local food jobs.
The leaked document, from the European parliament’s agriculture committee, reads: “As things currently stand, the UK has 59 such registered names, including e.g. Lakeland Herwick Meat, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese, West Wales Coracle Caught Sewin, and Scotch Whisky. The question of what will happen to EU GIs after the withdrawal of the UK is a difficult one. If no arrangements to another effect are made, the protection afforded by the above-mentioned legislation would normally cease to apply in the UK, which means that over a thousand European registered names could be exposed to violation in this neighbouring country of the EU27.”
This could have a clear impact on the Brexit negotiations, which are currently in preparation. The document goes on to add that “In the hypothesis where the UK, as a third country, would enter into a new relationship with the EU27 based on a free trade agreement it would be important therefore to include a mutual recognition of GIs in such an agreement on the model.”
The naming conventions are not the only thing that the report is worried about. There is also some concern about the effect of removing the UK from the Common Agricultural Policy, an agreement which arranges subsidies for farmers across the EU.
“It is obvious that the Brexit will lead to a significant gap in the financing of the CAP once the UK contributions, on the one hand, and the expenditures related to British agriculture on the other hand have been removed,” says the document. It goes on to add that the cost will be “somewhere between €1.2bn and €3.1bn if the EU wants to maintain current spending levels for the remaining 27 member states”.
In addition to this, there are worries about the size of the EU market once the UK is removed from it. There are some fears that countries who have trade agreements with the EU might want to renege on them or rehash them, since they will have access to a smaller overall market.
What it looks like all round is a bit of a worry about the market once all the dust settles. The document even brings up concerns of how the current UK government will negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries, something it has not had to do alone for a long time.
It’s also clear that there may be some changes to manufacturing jobs and techniques; for example, some Conservative members have proposed accepting GM food or using a US method of cleaning chicken meat with chlorinated water.