UK food industry concerns that the British government might provide a tariff-free environment to attract imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been addressed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Speaking to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference today (19 March), Gove said: “Your concerns have been absolutely heard and announcement on new UK tariffs in a no-deal scenario – with specific and robust protections for farming – will be made shortly.”

Farmers and the food industry were concerned that while a lack of tariffs would be attractive to foreign businesses exporting their goods to the UK, it could result in a flood of cheap imports which could threaten their livelihood.

But now Gove has told them that scenario will not play out.

In a speech in which he also warned that the UK may not be able to export food to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Gove said: “The Government is, of course, doing everything it can not just to secure a deal but also to mitigate the impact of leaving without deal. The NFU and others have made strong arguments about the need to ensure stronger tariff protection for British farming, in particular stronger protection for British farming than any other sector of the economy,” he said.

“In particular, you have argued that we need tariffs on sheep meat, beef, poultry, dairy, both milk and cheese, and pig meat in order to safeguard our valuable domestic production.” 

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By GlobalData

Gove told the audience that it also has the power to intervene to provide direct cash support to the most vulnerable sectors.

If the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, it will revert to trading under World Trade Organization rules.