The UK’s leading farming lobby group is urging the Government to review its tariff plans in a scenario where the country leaves the EU without a deal.
Under the current plans for applied trade tariffs should the UK exit without an agreement, the country would trade on World Trade Organization rules, meaning the country’s farmers would face higher fees on exports, including 48% on lamb and 84% on beef, The National Farmers’ Union said today (30 August).
The NFU said the UK government should look to apply tariffs on imports of “eggs, some dairy products, horticultural products and grains”.
In March, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May set out a plan to eliminate tariffs on many imports, including some dairy and agricultural products, to avoid a hard border with Ireland. The NFU is also urging the UK government, now headed by former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to review that plan.
“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,” NFU president Minette Batters said.
“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.”
She 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.”
Since Johnson became Prime Minister, the UK government has consistently stated it wants to strike a withdrawal agreement with the EU but has also underlined the country will leave the bloc on 31 October with our without a deal.