Agriculture sectors should be treated as sensitive and that in the event of a no deal Brexit, reciprocal tariffs must be in place to safeguard food production, farmers are demanding. The comments were made following a detailed discussion about Brexit and tariffs at the Ulster Farmers Union’s February Executive committee meeting.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said, “The UK government has already outlined that it will pursue stable food prices in the event of a no deal Brexit. This could mean the government chooses to apply a zero tariff unilaterally on all food products coming in from the EU and the rest of the world. Flooding the market with lower standard food, produced at a lower cost. This would render UK producers uncompetitive, ultimately forcing us out of the market.”
The government’s own economic model recognises the detrimental impact unilateral trade liberalisation would have. Forecasting decreased UK food production and depressed prices across all commodities should it implemented.
The UFU favours a more sophisticated approach whereby there is reciprocity on tariffs and standards. Ferguson says this would be a refined way of managing trade rather than the abolition of tariffs or a unilateral reduction. “If the EU applies tariffs, we should reciprocate at the same level. Ongoing trade would be managed through the introduction of tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for sectors where there is a domestic producer interest,” he said.
However, the UFU consistently argued that a no-deal Brexit has to be avoided at all costs. “Our key concern is the future of farm family businesses in Northern Ireland and there are no winners in a no deal Brexit situation,” said the UFU president.
The UK government has indicated it will shortly announce the UK’s no-deal tariff schedule. “We are eagerly awaiting this announcement, however, it is possible it will be superseded by the events in the House of Commons next week. We continue to work to ensure politicians and civil servants in Westminster have a full understanding of what is at stake for our farming industry here and that agriculture is afforded the status it deserves,” said Ferguson.