Sunday, August 09, 2009

Threat to cross-border trade

The internal market is arguably the greatest achievement of the European Union and from time to time we are told that it is now almost complete. However, regulatory decisions can easily derail it and a threat has arisen to cross-border trade between England and Scotland.

The Scottish Government is planning to capitalise on its low incidence of Bovine TB by applying to the European Commission for TB-free status. They have held back from making an immediate application after auctioneers and meat wholesalers expressed reservations. They warned that the sustainability of abattoirs and markets could be threatened as cross-border trade dried up.

It might also be counter productive in terms of containing the disease. Scottish finishers typically buy cattle from the north of England where TB is less common. However, if they are not prepared to pay the cost of pre-movement testing, they might start buying from high-risk areas in Wales and the West of England.

Another complication is that some farmers have holdings on either side of the national border. It is also unclear whether livestock taken from Scotland and not sold at an English market can then be returned north of the border.

It's sometimes a bit of an Alice in Wonderland world in agricultural policy. No doubt the move is seen as a patriotic one in Scotland, but whether it is good policy is another matter.

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