The NFU has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for an urgent review of the government’s no-deal trade tariff policy that would come into effect if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Under the current no-deal applied trade tariffs, the UK would be forced to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, meaning UK farmers would face higher fees on exports such as 48% on lamb and 84% on beef, 37% on poultry and 19% on eggs (see graphic).
In the letter, NFU President Minette Batters has reaffirmed the NFU’s view that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for British farming and that any exiting of the EU must be smooth and orderly.
Batters said: “If we leave without a deal the sudden change in our trading relationship with the EU will have severe impacts on the UK food and farming sectors, not least due to the tariff treatment of both imports and exports.
“Clearly the imposition of tariffs on our exports to the EU will most likely lead to a surplus of domestic products on the UK market, while at the same time lower or no tariffs on imports into the UK will put further pressure on domestic producer prices.
“There’s also the risk that without the maintenance of tariff protections we would be in danger of opening up the UK to imported food which would be illegal to be produced here.
“The situation is particularly stark on the island of Ireland where no tariffs will be collected on imports across the land-border. There is no indication that such an arrangement will be reciprocated by the EU and there is nothing in practical terms to stop this trade becoming an open gateway for all EU goods entering the UK duty free.”
The NFU is asking the Prime Minister to:
• Adjust the zero tariff that has been set on eggs, some dairy products, horticultural products and grains
• Review the zero-tariff arrangements for the land border on the island of Ireland
• Ensure detailed arrangements are in place for robust and timely market monitoring to understand the impact of the tariff regime and to enable remedial action adjusting tariffs if necessary
Batters added: “We understand this tariff policy is intended to be temporary and in response to an undesirable situation. However, it’s imperative that such an approach does not form the basis for the UK’s long-term international trade policy.
“Government must act now to address our concerns and revise the tariff regime to try and lessen the significant damage which a no-deal would inflict on the UK farming sector.
“It is also important that government manages prices for the public in a no-deal scenario – these tariff arrangements will have little impact on retail food prices yet could have a massive impact on the viability of farm businesses.
“Safeguarding Britain’s food producers and our domestic food supply has never been more important. Leaving the EU, our closest neighbour and trading partner, in a smooth and orderly way is vital to allow our farm businesses to have a viable and sustainable future.”