On 01 October, Coldiretti, the Italian national farmers’ confederation, raised the alarm about the risks to Italian agri-food exports posed by the UK’s exit from the EU.
Italian producers are seriously concerned about the customs duties that might be applied to Italian products after Brexit.
Italian exports to the UK are worth around EUR 3.4 billion per year, driven by the wine sector, which in 2019 had a EUR 770 million turnover, with Prosecco being the market leader.
The situation is further exacerbated by the traffic light nutritional labelling system, which is widespread in the UK retail sector, whereby at least 85% of Italian agri-food products are given the red light due to a misleading application of the system.
On 12 October 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Mara Bizzotto of the Identity and Democracy Group, raised a written parliamentary question to the European Commission.
MEP Bizzotto declared that “it should also be borne in mind – as I have already complained about in previous questions – that in the UK, cases of fraudulent imitation of Italian products protected by PDO and PGI schemes are almost an everyday occurrence, as part of the well-known ‘Italian-sounding’ phenomenon”. Further, “noting that the UK remains a key trading partner for Italy and the EU” MEP Bizzotto asked the Commission “what measures it intends to take to protect Italian agri-food products;” and “what progress it is making, in the context of the Brexit negotiations, to prevent the application of ill-considered customs duties to high-quality Italian and European products?”
On 09 December, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski responded on behalf of the European Commission and reported that “article 54(2) of the withdrawal agreement already secures full and indefinite protection of all EU registered Italian quality products in the United Kingdom (UK), namely geographical indications (GIs), designations of origin, traditional specialities guaranteed as well as traditional terms for wine”.
Commissioner Wojciechowski asserted that “building on the high level of protection already provided to registered GIs in the Withdrawal Agreement, the Commission is seeking to confirm such protection and establish a mechanism for the protection of future GIs under the new partnership with the UK, ensuring the same level of protection as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement”. He clarified that “under the future partnership, the Commission is seeking to ensure the effective enforcement of intellectual property rights, including with respect to GIs, not only at the border but also in the digital environment”.
Commissioner Wojciechowski explained that “in accordance with the Political Declaration and the Council’s negotiating directives, the future economic partnership with the UK will be based on ‘zero tariff, zero quota’ in all sectors, including the agri-food sector, provided that guarantees on level playing field and their enforcement are ensured”. Finally, he declared that “negotiations on the future partnership are still ongoing”.
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