September 19, 2021 10:46 pm

British farmers and traders face Brexit uncertainty

UK government is urging businesses to prepare for Brexit. For traders in London’s Borough Market, uncertainty still hangs over the conditions for the UK’s exit from Europe.

Dominic McCourt's stand at London's Borough Market, where he sells 100% products

The UK is due out of Europe on January 1. But farmers and food vendors still don’t know what to prepare for.

When he strolls through his market in south-east London, we notice Darren Henaghan. He is known to all traders, he is the manager of Borough Market. And when we talk to him about Brexit, we can guess behind his mask a smile of spite: “We’ve been talking about it for three and a half years, right? To be honest, we’re fed up, he explains. All my traders want to know are the new rules. That they can plan, invest, change and adapt. ”

Customers accustomed to products from elsewhere

Here, the origin of the products is clearly identified, it is even a selling point. This high-end market is very popular with tourists, and has more than 20 million visitors each year. Lindsay Goughlan sells all kinds of meat there with her firm which announces the color even in its name. It exports its products, it imports them too. Lots of French meat, she goes regularly to the Rungis market. If tomorrow you have to pay heavy customs duties, she thinks consumers will follow up to a point. What she fears is having to reduce her activity. “If I withdraw certain French goods, I will have problems with my British production, she explains. My French customers are going to say to me: ‘Lindsay, are you not taking my Bresse chicken anymore? Or my veal chop? So I don’t buy your sausages anymore. ‘ And there it is the domino effect… “

The fear of a lower quality import

A domino effect that could even turn into a game of massacre in the event of a “no deal”, of no agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. The bluff, the sleeve effects, the endless negotiations… These traders are fed up. Dominic McCourt is a butcher and also a farmer. The meat he sells in the market is the meat he raises on the family farm in central England. Its steaks are 100% made in England, using traditional methods: traceability, identification of livestock, healthy food.

But if European standards disappear tomorrow, the fear of importing cheap meat of poor quality looms. Chicken with chlorine, beef with hormones, this is what Dominic fears, without being able to do much about it, except to speak with his customers: “I think the mission is to educate people to learn about the origin of food: the power is in the hands of the consumers.

Beyond business, there is also a question of public health. What rules are imposed on those who will produce the food sold in the UK from January 1? To this question for the moment, there is no answer.

Brexit, the concerns of British traders: listen to the report from Richard Place