An UK-EU veterinary deal would lead to a 22.5% increase in British food exports to Europe, a new study has found. It would also lead to a 5.6% increase in UK food imports from the EU.

The research by the Aston University’s Centre for Business Prosperity and the University of Bristol found that there has been a 5% drop in UK food exports to the EU since 2019.

This has led to calls for an EU-UK veterinary agreement from business and agri-food organisations, including the Confederation of British Industry, British Chambers of Commerce, UK Food and Drink Federation and the British Veterinary Association.

The study analysed the agricultural and veterinary aspects of trade deals around the world to estimate their impact on exports. They then modelled the potential impact of different types of agreement on UK exports to the EU.


The EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement (TCA), implemented in January 2021, eliminates tariffs and quotas, but does not remove non-tariff barriers to trade.

These are particularly burdensome for agricultural and agri-food exports, because they involve complex rules and requirements, as well as the production of extensive documentation and veterinary checks.

It is estimated that UK food businesses sending products to the EU have incurred additional export costs of around €200m as a consequence of Brexit.

The UK agri-food sector is a cornerstone of the UK economy, with exports worth €30bn and businesses employing 4.2m people.

Analysing data from the World Bank on 279 trade agreements and export statistics from over 200 countries, the researchers found that shallow agreements, that went little further than provisions already covered by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, had significant negative impacts on agri-food exports.

Positive impact

However, the study found that there was a positive impact on food exports where trade agreements included legally enforceable commitments on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.

Applying this to the UK-EU relationship, the team estimates that a veterinary agreement that went beyond the existing TCA provisions would increase agri-food exports from the UK to the EU by more than one-fifth. Imports from the EU would also increase by 5.6%.

From an Irish perspective, an EU-UK veterinary agreement would largely remove barriers to the movement of livestock between the two islands which have emerged since 2021.

Problems regarding the supply of veterinary medicines to Northern Ireland would also be largely sorted out by such an agreement, as would seed potato supplies to Irish growers.