Updated no-deal tariffs on farmers would result in 150,000 tonnes of cheese and 33,000 tonnes of butter unable to enter the market as it does currently.
UK egg producers, cereal farmers and horticultural growers could face no protection against imports, according to the president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
Minette Batters spoke after the government confirmed it will remove the tariff safeguards for a number of agricultural sectors in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
She said this ‘severely undermined’ the farming industry, and risked the UK being ‘flooded’ with imports produced to lower standards that would be illegal for British farmers.
‘With the chances of us leaving in less than four weeks without a deal increasing by the day, the prime minister has missed a real opportunity to back British farmers,’ said Ms Batters.
‘I don’t recall anyone selling a vision of post-Brexit Britain as one involving lower standard food filling shop shelves while British farmers go out of business’
‘Farmers and growers are understandably anxious to know that the government will take all steps necessary to help the sector avoid the worst impacts of leaving the EU without a deal. Instead we will see — from day one — farm businesses facing new, high tariffs on much of the 60% of our exports that go into the EU, while tariffs on goods coming into the UK will be set far, far lower and in many cases won’t be applied at all.
‘In particular, British egg farmers, British cereal farmers, our horticultural growers and many of our dairy farmers will have zero protection against cheap imports coming in from around the world.’
Trade body Dairy UK said the tariffs are ‘cripplingly high’ and would make British dairy products ‘uncompetitive’ on the EU market.
‘This would result in 150,000 tonnes of cheese and 33,000 tonnes of butter unable to enter the EU market as it does currently, becoming displaced, flooding the UK market and creating the potential for huge farm gate price collapses,’ they said.
‘Across all products, the industry would see nearly £1.3bn in lost export potential to its most profitable market.’
Ms Batters added that without the maintenance of tariff protections, there was the danger of opening up the UK to imported food produced at a lower cost which it may fail to meet the environmental and animal welfare standards that are legally required of our own farmers.
‘I believe that offering some limited tariff protection and managing volumes through a system of import quotas would have struck the right balance between protecting the interests of domestic producers and keeping retail food prices under control,’ she said.
‘I don’t recall anyone selling a vision of post-Brexit Britain as one involving lower standard food filling shop shelves while British farmers, the guardians of our cherished countryside, go out of business.’
A government spokesman told Country Life that the removal of tariff safeguards would ‘help to support British jobs and avoid consumer price increases’ should we leave the EU without an agreement.
‘This is a temporary measure and we will be monitoring the economy closely, as well as continuing to listen to feedback provided through gov.uk,’ he said. ‘The government will also continue to meet regularly with representatives from the food and farming sector to hear their concerns.’
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