The British government has told the agricultural industry that the EU will allow almost all food and plant exports from the UK to continue after Brexit.
As a first step, the UK must be granted the status of “third country” listed to be allowed to export to the EU.
A Defra letter says the EU will confirm this legally on Monday with effect from 1 January.
This applies regardless of an agreement after Brexit.
If no agreement was reached, import duties would apply both ways, while new bureaucracies such as export health certificates would be introduced.
“Third country list” is essential to allow the continued export of, for example, Welsh lamb or live chickens.
The National Farmers Union said it was a “critical step forward”. While almost all UK plant exports are also listed, there is a delay for some seed exports.
And while the export of ware potatoes for eating is still allowed, there will be a ban on the export of seed potatoes – that is, potatoes that are not intended to be consumed but which are planted to grow more potatoes.
The Defra letter says: “Unfortunately, the EU has confirmed that they do not accept our case for a permanent change in the ban on seed potatoes … on the grounds that there is no agreement that GB is dynamically adapted to EU rules”.
This is an industry essentially focused on Scotland and the north of England.
Exports of seed potatoes are also excluded from the UK to Northern Ireland. A continuity trade agreement with Egypt will protect the largest market for British exports.
Scottish government spokesman Fergus Ewing said it would be “catastrophic for our world’s leading industry”.
It was a delay in the process of granting third country status that led the government to accuse the EU of threatening to “block” Northern Ireland. This news guarantees access to almost everything.