Brexit warning: Italy on ‘red alert’ as no deal threatens food and wine devastation

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Ahead of the latest round of Brexit trade talks between the UK and European Union in London this week, the Prime Minister infuriated senior Brussels figures after it was reported the Government will table new legislation, which threatens to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement. Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal outcome between the two sides. The Prime Minister has piled further pressure onto the EU by insisting there needs to be an agreement in place by October 15 if it is to be in full force before the end of the transition period on December 31.

Now Coldiretti (National Farmers Confederation) has warned the absence of a trade deal between the UK and EU could see a surge in “fake” products passed off as Italian – even if they are not.

The association told the Wine News website in Italy: “With the latest threat from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Great Britain risks becoming the free port of the fake Made in Italy in Europe due to the lack of legal protection of the brands of Italian food products with geographical and quality indications (PDO/PGI), which represent 30 percent of the total overseas agri-food exports.”

Coldiretti, led by its President Ettore Prandini, warned any ‘Made in Italy’ products would not have European protection and would be subject to unfair competition from imitation products made elsewhere overseas.

The group is worried by the disputes demonstrated in previous years against Great Britain with the cases of fake prosecco on tap or in cans, kits for making fake Barolo and Valpolicella or even Parmigiano Reggiano at home.

This, they fear, could impact on Italian products such as extra virgin olive oil, Parma ham, Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Italy also feats commercial relations would be at risk from the numerous administrative obstacles to exports that would exist after Brexit.

This could inflict substantial economic damage, given Made in Italy agri-food supplies last year amounted to €3.4billion.

This puts the UK in fourth position among the commercial partners Italy has in the sector, only behind Germany, France and the US.

In 2019, Italian wine sales in the British market totalled €783million, driven by a sudden boom in Prosecco.

Among the best-selling Italian agri-food products sold in the UK, this was followed by fruit and vegetables such as tomato derivatives (€329 million), but pasta and olive oil, as well as olives and cheeses such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, also play an important part in the balance of commercial balances.

The President of Coldiretti, Ettore Prandini, warned: “in a time of global economic recession the old continent cannot afford a trade war, but the path of dialogue in the interest of citizens and businesses.”

He also added the UK relies on other countries to account for around a third of its total food requirements.

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On Monday, Downing Street insisted the Government was not looking to backtrack on previous commitments made in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are fully committed to implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and we have already taken many practical steps to do.”

He insisted the Prime Minister has made clear the need for significant progress this week when talks on a free trade deal resume in London.

The spokesman added: “We can’t be in the same position as we are now by the end of the upcoming negotiating round if we are going to reach an agreement in the time available.

As the Prime Minister is setting out today, there needs to be an agreement by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it is going to be in force by the end of the year.

“Reaching a deal at the eleventh hour is not an option.”

Mr Johnson had said in an earlier statement he would not compromise on the “fundamentals” of what made Britain an independent nation.

He also insisted a no deal would still be a “good outcome for the UK”.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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