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MPs call for IT to support food trade post-Brexit

20/02/18

Committee report highlights need for new systems to minimise disruption to imports and exports when UK leaves the EU

The UK needs to ensure its IT systems and infrastructure are fit for purpose to support agricultural exports once it leaves the EU, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has raised the issue as one of several in a report, Brexit: Trade in Food, focused on the implications of there being no deal on trade by March of next year.

Fruit and vegetables on a market stallIt comes a few weeks after the Public Accounts Committee published a paper warning that it did not expect Whitehall departments to have the IT systems in place to deal with a ‘hard Brexit’, and after the National Audit Office said HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is in a race against time to deploy the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) before the UK leaves the EU – with significant risks if it fails.

While it devotes much of its attention to tariffs and regulations, it highlights the need for IT systems that can deal with changes, and says the Government has to invest in IT systems to support a more efficient export certification process to minimise delays in trade.

This is particularly important in the case of agricultural products that could spoil if held up while going through customs.

While gathering evidence for the report, the committee was told by the National Union of Farmers that there is a need for IT systems that would enable data to be shared along the supply chain and ensure health export certificates are in in place.

In addition, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said there is a need for an arrangement involving electronic health certificates.

Business threat

Among the other points expressed in the report is a reminder that the EU is the UK’s most significant trading partner, and that if tariffs are set under World Trade Organisation rules it could put many UK farmers out of business and make the country dependent on imported food.

Chair of the committee Neil Parish said: "60% of the UK's agricultural exports and 70% of its imports are from the EU. In order to safeguard the livelihoods of UK farmers and guarantee domestic food security post-Brexit, it is vital that the Government articulates its vision for protecting both.”

Image by muammerokumas, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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