'I doubt UK farmers know what's coming' - Brexit concerns voiced
21st Feb 2017 / By Alistair Driver
Farmers have been warned profitability could be badly affected if the UK fails to secure a trade deal with the EU, at the point we leave the union.
With Article 50 set to be triggered by the end of March, setting in motion formal Brexit negotiations experts have again highlighted the risks associated with a failure to secure free trade with our biggest trading partner.
Prime Minister Theresa May has made it clear she is prepared to go down this route if the EU seeks to 'punish' the UK with a poor Brexit settlement, warning 'no deal is better than a bad deal'. Some EU member states have been equally clear they would block any attempts fot the UK to seek the 'best of all worlds' as it breaks from the union.
According to research by the Guardian, the $204bn-worth of British goods bound for Europe each year would be hit with $7.6bn in new tariffs if trade reverted to WTO rules, equivalent to £6.1bn at today’s exchange rate.
Farming would be at the frontline, with most sectors suffering, including pigmeat, which would face tariffs, for example, of 45p/kg on sow carcases, 72p/kg for bone-in loins and 131.5p/kg for processed hams.
These tariffs would make exports, particularly sow exports to Germany uncompetitive.
“I doubt UK farmers know what’s coming,” said John Springford, director of research at the Centre for European Reform. “There is a real risk for the average British farmer that they could be dealing with much worse trading terms.”
The Government continues to maintain that it would be 'irrational' for both sides to fail to agree a UK-EU trade deal, but experts point out these complex deal can take years to sign off.
Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom is expected to shed more light on the Government's position as far as agriculture is concerned when she addresses the NFU conference today, in Birmingham.
The NFU has highlighted a new report from Development Economics suggesting that for every £1 invested in farm support, farming delivers £7.40 back to the economy. The report shows farming spends £15.3billion on goods and services, with businesses providing animal feed, crop seeds and vets all dependent on productive and profitable farms for custom.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “To increase the vital contribution farming makes to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the UK, Government must ensure we have the best possible trade deals, access to a competent and reliable workforce and farm support that is fit for purpose.
“A future domestic agricultural policy has got to work for Britain.”