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NPA welcomes 'positive' EFRA Brexit trade report

18th Feb 2018 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has welcomed a report from MPs that calls for the Government to ensure any new post-Brexit trade agreements do not compromise the UK’s high food production standards.

EFRA reportThe Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee published a report on the implications of Brexit for trade in food on Sunday. It can be viewed here 

The NPA gave oral and written evidence to the inquiry and the report echoes many of the concerns raised by the association’s about the implications of Brexit for the pig sector.

The report focused on the impact on different agri-food sectors of having to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in the event of no deal being reached between the UK and EU. It concluded that there is no guarantee that a free trade agreement with the EU will be reached.

The imposition of WTO tariffs could possibly lead to higher costs for consumers, but lead to beneficial import displacement, notably for the pig sector, given the UK is currently only 56% self-sufficient in pigmeat, although the need for carcase balance would be a limiting factor here.

But the report warns that a ‘liberalisation’ that saw a lowering on tariff and non-tariff barriers in future trade agreements could lead to cheaper imports, produced to lower welfare standards, and damage British producers. Removing tariffs ‘could put many UK farmers out of business and render the UK dependent on imported food’, the MPs concluded.

The report said the agricultural industry needed clarity on the Government’s long-term vision, as reverting to WTO tariffs would have a significant impact on agriculture, given that tariffs are higher for agricultural products than for other goods and services

Key recommendations

Some of the key recommendations for Government included:

  •  It should consider creating a fund to support the UK’s agricultural sector as it adapts to the post-Brexit environment.
  • It should publish a sector-by-sector analysis of the impact of Brexit before the publication of the Agriculture Bill, and publish the Bill as soon as possible.
  • It should begin to develop relationships at a political level with potential new trading partners.
  • It should ensure that any new agreements are not to the detriment of the UK’s high animal welfare, environmental, or food standards.
  • It should make clear how it will deal with potential regulatory divergence with the EU, and ensure that protected geographical indicators are retained in a similar form after the UK leaves the EU.
  • It should agree Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) for the agricultural sectors as soon as possible.
  • It must set out how it will ensure that IT systems and infrastructure are in place for the import and export of agricultural produce after we leave the EU.
  • Investment is needed in export certification systems and border inspection posts.

EFRA chair Neil Parish said: “60% of the UK’s agricultural exports and 70% of its imports are from the EU. In order to safeguard the livelihoods of UK farmers and guarantee domestic food security post-Brexit, it is vital that the Government articulates its vision for protecting both. The first step in this process is creating an analysis of each farming sector before bringing the Agriculture Bill before Parliament.

“We should under no circumstances compromise on our world-renowned animal welfare, environmental, and food standards. Brexit should be an opportunity to improve, not undermine, our global reputation for quality.”

NPA response

 NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker, who gave evidence in front of the committee, said the report also covered a number of issues specific to the pig industry.

He said: “The report highlighted the UK pig sector’s potential for further growth domestically and the need for effective marketing of our products abroad. It also reflected our concerns about the need for carcase balance to be taken into account in any assessment of the potential impact on the pork sector of new post-Brexit trading arrangements.

“The Committee noted the potential for more targeted regulations after we leave the EU.

"It also picked up on the current threat posed by African Swine Fever (ASF) and the devastating impact an outbreak would have on trade, and highlighted the need for an effective domestic policy on disease surveillance and prevention after we leave the EU.”

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “Overall this was a very positive report that reflected many of the issues we raised in our evidence.

“We wholeheartedly agree with the need for clarity on the Government’s long-term vision for post-Brexit trading as this will have an enormous impact on the pig sector.

"We are pleased to see the Committee echo the industry’s concerns about the need to protect our high production standards in future trade deals.

“But we also agree that Brexit brings fresh opportunities, for example, in finding new markets, better regulation and incentives to invest under a new farm support system.”

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