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Brexit indigestion: row brewing over call for UK laws to protect likes of cognac and feta Brexit indigestion: row brewing over call for UK laws to protect likes of cognac and feta
(2 months later)
Feta cheese, Parma ham, French cognac and Belgium’s sour lambic beers are the latest cause of indigestion in Brexit talks, after the EU stepped up demands on the UK to legislate to preserve the status of European speciality produce.Feta cheese, Parma ham, French cognac and Belgium’s sour lambic beers are the latest cause of indigestion in Brexit talks, after the EU stepped up demands on the UK to legislate to preserve the status of European speciality produce.
EU special status for regional food and drink has emerged as a new sticking point in the negotiations, following a bad-tempered week of discussions in which the two sides clashed over the Galileo satellite system, and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told the UK government to stop playing “hide and seek” over its goals.EU special status for regional food and drink has emerged as a new sticking point in the negotiations, following a bad-tempered week of discussions in which the two sides clashed over the Galileo satellite system, and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told the UK government to stop playing “hide and seek” over its goals.
In a demand likely to infuriate Brexiter backbenchers, the European commission is calling on the British parliament to legislate to protect a few thousand protected food and drink products from copycats. The EU wants the UK to adopt a near equivalent to its system of “geographical indications” – labels that protect a product linked to a region.In a demand likely to infuriate Brexiter backbenchers, the European commission is calling on the British parliament to legislate to protect a few thousand protected food and drink products from copycats. The EU wants the UK to adopt a near equivalent to its system of “geographical indications” – labels that protect a product linked to a region.
Barnier has said geographical indications are among the issues that must be settled before the UK can have an exit deal, including a 21-month transition period.Barnier has said geographical indications are among the issues that must be settled before the UK can have an exit deal, including a 21-month transition period.
But after fractious talks in Brussels last week, a senior EU official said they were proving to be another “difficult issue ... where the UK has no position”.But after fractious talks in Brussels last week, a senior EU official said they were proving to be another “difficult issue ... where the UK has no position”.
“At the moment, we do not have any indication if they intend to protect geographical indications on their market beyond Brexit,” they said.“At the moment, we do not have any indication if they intend to protect geographical indications on their market beyond Brexit,” they said.
An EU position paper published last September said “necessary [UK] domestic legislation” must be “comparable to that provided by union law”.An EU position paper published last September said “necessary [UK] domestic legislation” must be “comparable to that provided by union law”.
A senior EU source told the Guardian this meant “indefinite” protection beyond the transition period to the end of 2020. “I assume that the UK, since they see that this is an economic bargaining chip, will probably try to hang on as long as possible, but they will probably have to give in as well, because this is about grandfathering rights,” the source predicted.A senior EU source told the Guardian this meant “indefinite” protection beyond the transition period to the end of 2020. “I assume that the UK, since they see that this is an economic bargaining chip, will probably try to hang on as long as possible, but they will probably have to give in as well, because this is about grandfathering rights,” the source predicted.
Diplomats from France, Italy and Greece, countries with hundreds of protected products under the EU’s scheme, are pressing the commission’s negotiators for results. “Don’t underestimate the sensitivity of these issue,” said the senior official.Diplomats from France, Italy and Greece, countries with hundreds of protected products under the EU’s scheme, are pressing the commission’s negotiators for results. “Don’t underestimate the sensitivity of these issue,” said the senior official.
Reserving the name champagne for sparkling wine from north-eastern France has been French government policy for at least 100 years. Protection of champagne and other French wine and spirits was even included in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Barnier, a former French agriculture minister, has referred increasingly to the issue since January, describing geographical indications as one of the “not negligible” topics that must be settled.Reserving the name champagne for sparkling wine from north-eastern France has been French government policy for at least 100 years. Protection of champagne and other French wine and spirits was even included in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Barnier, a former French agriculture minister, has referred increasingly to the issue since January, describing geographical indications as one of the “not negligible” topics that must be settled.
The EU has more than 3,300 protected foods and drinks, including scores from the UK, listed under its register of geographical indications. The rules bar English growers from calling their sparking wine champagne, for example, or Danish farmers from selling their crumbly cheese as feta.The EU has more than 3,300 protected foods and drinks, including scores from the UK, listed under its register of geographical indications. The rules bar English growers from calling their sparking wine champagne, for example, or Danish farmers from selling their crumbly cheese as feta.
As well as the big names, the list includes hundreds of lesser-known specialities, such as Lithuanian rye bread, Polish Grójec apples and Croatian smoked sausage.As well as the big names, the list includes hundreds of lesser-known specialities, such as Lithuanian rye bread, Polish Grójec apples and Croatian smoked sausage.
The UK, a latecomer to applying for GI labels, has 83 protected foods and drinks, including Scotch whisky, Cornish pasties and Arbroath smokies. The government has promised to protect these products on the UK market.The UK, a latecomer to applying for GI labels, has 83 protected foods and drinks, including Scotch whisky, Cornish pasties and Arbroath smokies. The government has promised to protect these products on the UK market.
Britain has said the protection of EU food and drink on the UK market is a matter for negotiations. Officials think the issue gives them some leverage and do not want to give away valuable intellectual property rights without getting something in return.Britain has said the protection of EU food and drink on the UK market is a matter for negotiations. Officials think the issue gives them some leverage and do not want to give away valuable intellectual property rights without getting something in return.
Special status for food and drink is always one of the biggest sticking points in EU trade talks with other countries. Most recently, Brussels and Mexico clashed over cheese, when the EU insisted the name manchego should only apply to sheep’s cheese from central Spain, while Mexico asserted its right to sell “manchego” from cow’s milk. In a sign of the difficulties surrounding the issue, technical talks are continuing, despite agreement on an overall trade deal.Special status for food and drink is always one of the biggest sticking points in EU trade talks with other countries. Most recently, Brussels and Mexico clashed over cheese, when the EU insisted the name manchego should only apply to sheep’s cheese from central Spain, while Mexico asserted its right to sell “manchego” from cow’s milk. In a sign of the difficulties surrounding the issue, technical talks are continuing, despite agreement on an overall trade deal.
Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, a former EU trade representative at the WTO, said the issue of protected food and drink was often overdramatised.Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, a former EU trade representative at the WTO, said the issue of protected food and drink was often overdramatised.
“The likelihood that the UK would have any interest in making their own champagne or their own feta or their own prosciutto di Parma is simply nil,” he said.“The likelihood that the UK would have any interest in making their own champagne or their own feta or their own prosciutto di Parma is simply nil,” he said.
“This is a legal and technical issue that is not straightforward [but] I don’t agree with the perception that it is thorny or a deal-breaker. It is actually one of the issues where we have shown a great amount of flexibility, but we have always compromised in the final wrap-up.”“This is a legal and technical issue that is not straightforward [but] I don’t agree with the perception that it is thorny or a deal-breaker. It is actually one of the issues where we have shown a great amount of flexibility, but we have always compromised in the final wrap-up.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “Leaving the EU gives us a golden opportunity to secure ambitious free trade deals while supporting our farmers and producers to grow and sell more great British food. We will ensure that consumers continue to have a wide range of choice of high-quality food products at affordable prices.”A UK government spokesperson said: “Leaving the EU gives us a golden opportunity to secure ambitious free trade deals while supporting our farmers and producers to grow and sell more great British food. We will ensure that consumers continue to have a wide range of choice of high-quality food products at affordable prices.”
BrexitBrexit
Food & drink industryFood & drink industry
Michel BarnierMichel Barnier
European UnionEuropean Union
Food & drink Food
EuropeEurope
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