Villiers sparks ire with tariffs comments

Defra secretary Theresa Villiers has provoked anger among farmers at a Conservative Party fringe event, after telling them they should not expect ‘big changes’ to post-Brexit tariffs.

Appearing as part of a panel discussion in Manchester alongside NFU president Minette Batters and Neil Parish MP, Villiers was questioned on the Government’s planned tariffs, which organisations including the NFU have criticised because of the likely harm they would cause to UK food businesses post Brexit.

However, despite telling the EFRA Select Committee last month that Defra would review the planned tariffs, Villiers told the fringe event it was important food prices didn’t spike after Brexit. “I recognise the concerns felt, but we have sought to get the right balance between ensuring we do not have unnecessary food rises and ensuring our agriculture sector is appropriately protected.”

Batters made the case for reciprocal tariffs on cereals and eggs, as otherwise, for example, the UK could be importing eggs produced to much lower standards. Building on this, Parish talked about the importance of ensuring we maintain good food, good standards, affordable food, and good environmental conditions. He later also linked these issues to the impact on the environment and climate change.

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