Brexit red tape means it is now easier to export haggis to Canada than the EU

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Haggis makers have warned in the run up to Burns Night that it is now easier to export the delicacy to Canada than Europe because of EU red tape after Brexit.

James MacSween, the managing director of third generation family firm MacSween, the market leader, said his exports to the EU would be halved this year. Expat Scots now face missing out on the traditional January 25 Burns Night haggis feast.

“It has become significantly more difficult to do just routine trade into Europe,” said Mr MacSween, “It is challenging to get stuff into Europe. There’s no denying it.”

Since Brexit took legal effect on Dec 31 2020, haggis, which is made from lamb, beef, oats, onions and spices, has faced EU export rules for products of animal origin from non-EU countries.

“It’s easier for me to export haggis to Canada. I’ve got experience of Canada. Canada now recognises that I’m an exporter, I’m approved for Canada,” Mr MacSween said.

Heat treatment and health certificates

The Edinburgh-based company will export 3.5 tonnes of haggis to Canada this year, which is double the amount being sent to Germany.

MacSween exported about 3.5 tonnes of haggis to Germany, the biggest EU haggis market, to beat 2020’s end of year Brexit deadline and secure supplies for the last Burns Night.

Before Brexit, a haggis exported to Germany could simply be put on a pallet on a truck. Now, the pallet must be heat treated and documents, including an export health certificate, packing list and commercial invoice, provided.

“The amount of protocol that I have to do to get into France and Germany is the same as I have to do for Singapore and Canada,” Mr MacSween said.

Those restrictions also apply in Northern Ireland, which, under the terms of its protocol, continues to follow some EU rules to avoid a hard Irish border.

Mr MacSween said, “I don’t see any other haggis producers trying to export. Potentially it is easier for me to export to Canada than export to Northern Ireland. There’s a lot of anxiety about getting those pallets into Northern Ireland.”

MacSween, which was established in 1953, exported four tonnes of haggis to Northern Ireland in December but has a long history of navigating customs rules.

‘Nothing to do with food safety’

This month, the US agreed to change its import rules to allow UK lamb to be sold and MacSween plans to begin haggis exports there next year. The company overcame a US ban on haggis dating back to 1971 by selling vegetarian haggis in the States.

A Defra spokesman said haggis was an “iconic Scottish product” and the Government wanted producers to succeed as the dish gained in global popularity.

He said the UK had been “working closely with the EU” and “encouraging them to act pragmatically” on export health certificates but advised producers to speak to EU border control posts in advance to ensure haggis would be allowed through.

The European Commission said there had been no progress in recent UK-EU meetings to ease the trade in animal products.

Scottish Conservative Ian Duncan, a former minister, MEP and now deputy speaker of the House of Lords, said: “Something is clearly wrong if a product that met every EU food regulation but a few months ago is suddenly off the menu.”

“It’s almost as if the impasse had nothing to do with food safety,” he added.

Alyn Smith, the Scottish National Party MP for Stirling and former MEP, said the haggis situation was “beyond bonkers”.

“There’s a wider context here that there is not a single product that has had an advantage from Brexit. Not a single one,” he said.

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