Producers of Melton pork pies and Stilton cheese have been warned that a no-deal Brexit would likely see them losing their protected status and pave the way for inferior copycat products to be made in European Union countries.
That was the worrying scenario painted by the UK Protected Food Names Association as the Government this week gave advice on what will happen on a number of issues if the UK leaves the EU in March with no trading agreements with member states.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has already pledged to set up a UK scheme after Brexit to maintain the ‘geographical indication’ (GI) protection of the 86 food and drink products currently listed, so they cannot be ripped off in this country.
This would cover Melton pork pies made at Dickinson and Morris and Brockleby’s, for example, and Stilton cheese produced at the likes of Long Clawson and Colston Bassett Dairies.
And ministers advise that in the event of a ‘no-deal’ producers should consider re-applying to the EU to also be covered by their scheme, and prevent European firms making inferior imitations.
Matthew O’Callaghan, chair of The UK Protected Food Names Association, said: “If the EU doesn’t recognise our products, the helpful advice from the Government is that we can all re-apply to the EU again to protect our products under the EU scheme – a process which for the Melton Mowbray pork pie took 11 years and expensive appearances in both the High Court and Court of Appeal.”
Defra has stated that producers will have to include a new logo on products when the new UK GI scheme operates from April.
The government plans to consult with businesses on this in the Spring, but Mr O’Callaghan said: “Does the Government realise how long it takes to completely change the packaging and labelling of goods, as well as implement any other aspects of the new scheme once consulted upon?
“We are talking about producers who account for a quarter of the UK’s Food and Drink exports given a moment’s notice on major changes affecting their business.”
Defra said in a briefing this week that a ‘no-deal Brexit’ was still ‘unlikely’ but it was giving out information so those affected so they can make informed plans and preparations if there is an exit witout a trade agreement.
It stated: “After we leave the EU, we anticipate that all current UK GIs will continue to be protected by the EU’s GI schemes.
“If this is not the case, UK producers wishing to regain the protection offered by EU GI status, and the right to use the EU GI logo, would need to submit their applications to the European Commission as ‘third country’ producers.”