Wednesday, August 4

Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU: more competition and more bureaucracy for the field and footwear

Harvesting of the so-called table grape in the fields of Vinalopó.  |  ÁXEL ÁLVAREZ

Harvesting of the so-called table grape in the fields of Vinalopó. | ÁXEL ÁLVAREZ

The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union a stir for many Spanish economic sectors, for which this country was a potential client, ranking in the top five, as is the case for the fruit and vegetable sector or the sixth for footwear, two bastions of the Alicante economy.

The agreement, signed on December 24 between the United Kingdom and the European Commission, by which Spanish products can continue to be exported without tariffs, is defined as “positive” by the Secretary General of the Unió de Llauradors. Thus, Carles Peris, affirms that «the final resolution of Brexit is satisfactory because we will be able to maintain relations without tariffs or fees. But it should be noted that, in the end, there will be a negative part and it will cost us a little more to export due to the bureaucratic burden that will cause more certifications and audits to be carried out. Although if we compare it with paying tariffs, it is much lower, “he argues.

Eladio Aniorte, president of ASAJA-Alicante, comments on the «importance of the United Kingdom for fruits and vegetables from Alicante. Now there will be a different status, before it was the free market of the borders and now it is not defined how it will work yet but we suppose that as before the common market, borders that will have their taxes, will have to bring visas, reviews. There will be obstacles and it will make other countries have the same conditions to go to the United Kingdom as us, whereas before we were a preferred country of course “.

For his part, the president of the Federation of Fruit and Horticultural Products Entrepreneurs (FEPHAL), Jorge Brotons «celebrates that despite uncertainty has chosen a way of dialogue and continue doing business, where the EU and in particular Spanish producers, will not suffer from tariffs that reduce the competitiveness of our products. A non-agreement would have made us face strong competition that would have increased with tariffs, estimated at around 12%, and that could have left us out of the market, “he says.

The Alicante garden is appreciated by the British but, From the Unió de Llauradors they emphasize assessing the consequences of Brexit in the long term. «The United Kingdom has reached preferential agreements with our competitors, such as Morocco, with a weight in citrus and vegetables. South Africa weighing in on oranges, tangerines and lemon. We believe that in the future it will cause more competition in an important market ”.

An opinion shared by Eladio Aniorte, who also highlights Egypt or Tunisia as other major competitors. «They have citrus, tomatoes, melon, watermelon. They compete with our same products. There the worker is not paid Social Security and the salary is very low. The sale price will always be cheaper, “he says.

More optimistic is Jorge Brotons after the resolution of the agreement. «New bureaucratic frameworks have been opened in terms of document management such as the certificate of conformity, the phytosanitary certificate and customs clearance at origin and destination; to which we have adapted quickly. They are procedures, not problems ”.

Farmers are clear in expressing their requests to the Government and the Single Market. Peris asks to reinforce the information on the relationship with the United Kingdom and the promotion of “our products when we anticipate that we will possibly have more competition in such an important market for us. We are sending 26 million euros in citrus fruits, 10 in nuts, two and a half million in table grapes and 1.75 in medlars, pomegranates and figs. For Alicante it represents a lot that the British market works well ”.

From FEPHAL they demand that the European Union “assert the strengths that a European product has compared to third countries, quality and safety. In addition to giving us the possibility of not being dependent on countries outside the EU, we have seen that in situations such as that caused by covid-19 they strengthen those regions capable of not depending. Therefore, the existing protocols between third countries and the EU are complied with. While Asaja calls for an “agile movement treaty and monitor the agreements made with third countries.”

Exchange rate

The opinion of footwear manufacturers is also positive, as conveyed by Marián Cano, president of AVECAL. Well, if an agreement had not been reached “our sector would have been taxed with the tariffs established by the World Trade Organization.” Although Brexit “has been affecting this sector since the referendum took place. The United Kingdom is the sixth destination for our exports but it was in the top five. If the exchange rate is not favorable for us, it reduces our competitiveness and this is something we are always working on as a sector ”. As an example, he explains: «in this atypical 2020, from January to October the Community’s footwear exports exceeded 41 million euros. It is an important market ”.

The crisis generated by the coronavirus “has led to a decline in fashion consumption worldwide. This is closely linked to social life and the restrictions of social life are not allowing us to grow in any economic area as we would like ».

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