BILLIONS of eggs from battery cages could be back on the UK menu in the event of a no-deal Brexit, unless the Government acts to protect British consumers.

Despite the news that there would be no-deal tariff protection for a number of UK agricultural sectors – notably lamb, poultry and beef – other sectors have been left to face the cold wind of unrestrained international imports, in particular, eggs, cereals, fruit and vegetables.

“Even those sectors that are treated sensitively will, in most instances, see worrying and large reductions in the tariff rates currently charged on non-EU imports,” noted ENFU president Minette Batters.

However, the British Egg Industry Council and Compassion in World Farming were this week focussed on the threat to the UK egg sector, which has expensively improved its welfare standards in line with, and often ahead of EU regulations, but now faces the prospect of barrier-free imports from countries still using battery cages.

BEIC chairman, Andrew Joret said: “It is seven years since we banned barren battery cages in the UK and consumers would justifiably feel betrayed if this were to happen.

“The BEIC keeps a global list of issues associated with eggs from other countries and we’ve almost lost count of the number we’ve seen which could put consumer safety at risk – everything from salmonella to Fipronil. We also need to ensure UK consumers are protected from this.”

Chief policy advisor at CIWF, Peter Stevenson, said: “We urge the Government in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to place tariffs on imported eggs otherwise eggs – and particularly egg products – from battery hens could flood into the UK undermining our farmers. If the Government fails to protect UK farmers from cheap, low welfare imports, it will be impossible for it to honour its commitment to using Brexit to achieve gold standard levels of animal welfare.”

The BEIC is now urgently seeking assurances from the Government that it will stop UK consumers being exposed to eggs and egg products from non-EU countries, including the USA, Ukraine, India and Argentina, where animal welfare standards are significantly lower.

Mr Joret concluded: “Removing tariffs and giving the green light to foreign eggs and egg products, produced in countries where there is no national legislation for laying hen welfare standards, and that are quite rightly outlawed here, is an insult to British consumers and simply can’t be allowed to happen. There is a very real risk that we will end up importing eggs from countries where hens have less than 400cm2 of space each – which is far less than when we banned battery cages in 2012.

“The Government cannot let our consumers and farmers down in this way and needs to act now to ensure that we maintain the standards that consumers expect in the UK.”