The Ulster Farmers’ Union has used a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May to again stress that a ‘no deal’ would have catastrophic consequences for the farming industry in Northern Ireland and urged her to do everything in her power to secure a Brexit deal.
UFU chief executive, Wesley Aston said, “We welcome the opportunity to have met the Prime Minister again this week. We stressed to her it is crucial that a deal is secured and soon. The current uncertainty is bad for business and our customers are seeking more clarity on what is to happen after the 29 March.”
Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry is worth approximately £4.5 billion to the Northern Ireland economy and employs around 100,000 people. Aston said, “The importance of agri-food and farming to Northern Ireland cannot be underestimated. It was encouraging that the Prime Minister recognised both this and our dependence on external trade. We have a world-class reputation and produce food to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world. A ‘no deal’ Brexit puts the future of the entire industry in jeopardy.”
A no deal scenario would introduce steep EU tariffs on agriculture goods from the UK, effectively pricing the agri-food industry out of the market. Additionally, in the effort to deliver on the UK government’s commitment to keep food prices stable for consumers, the government is likely opt to offer lower import tariffs. Which, under WTO rules, would have to be available to trading partners across the globe. “We are already seeing evidence the Government is seriously considering lowering import tariffs in the event of a no deal. This would be disastrous for farmers, as the market would be flooded with cheaper, and possibly lower standard food imports. Farm gate prices would be undercut and local farmers would be unable to compete,” said the UFU chief executive.
From the outset of Brexit negotiations, the UFU has been clear that a solution must be found that does not hamper trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, allows the long standing trading relationship between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland to continue with minimal disruption, and enables frictionless trade with the rest of the EU. “The UFU is firmly focused on what is best for the future of our family-run businesses in Northern Ireland. Politicians made a number of promises during the Brexit campaign, and farmers are looking to them to deliver. A no deal is the worst possible outcome and must be avoided at all cost,” said Aston.