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Livestock sector stresses need for post-Brexit EU access

29th Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver

A group of 18 organisations representing the UK livestock sector have called on the Government to prioritise tariff-free access to the EU, post-Brexit. 

George EusticeAt a recent meeting with the UK Livestock Brexit Group, which NPA is a prominent member of, Farming Minister George Eustice reiterated his belief that the UK will secure similar access to the single market with a new trade deal. 

He argued that the EU needs access to the UK market as much as the other way round and remains hopeful a new deal maintaining the status quo will be agreed by the time the UK formally cuts its ties with the EU. 

However, there are signs securing tariff free access immediately will not be straightforward. Some EU leaders have insisted they will not agree to the UK having access to the single market unless it accepts free movement of people, a position the UK Government would be reluctant to accept.

Livestock Auctioneers Association executive secretary Chris Dodds, who chairs the industry Brexit group, said all 18 organisations were unified in identifying continued tariff-free access to the single market as a major Brexit priority for the livestock sector. 

Labour concerns 

The other priority across the board was the requirement for the Government to ensure both skilled and unskilled permanent labour remains accessible to the industry beyond Brexit. 

A recent NPA survey highlighted how important this is to the pig sector. 

Mr Eustice also reiterated Defra Ministers' desire to use Brexit and a new agricultural policy to incentivise higher UK welfare standards, for example pigs reared in outdoor systems or finished on straw, to help attract a premium for UK producers.

The livestock group wants a transition period, of up to five years, to be agreed well in advance – and for a level playing field with free access to the EU market.

Mr Dodds added: “While trade and labour were top of the agenda for this meeting, other topics will include farm support, regulation and resources.

“Working as the UK Livestock Brexit Group provides our industry with the best platform possible to offer Government the extensive knowledge base that our sector can provide to ministers and administrations as they travel through the maze that will lead to an exit from the EU.”

In a further twist to the prevailing uncertainty over EU market access, it has emerged the Government could face a legal challenge over its desire to leave the single market. 

According to the BBC, lawyers say uncertainty over the UK's European Economic Area membership means ministers could be stopped from taking Britain out of the single market. 

They will argue the UK will not leave the EEA automatically when it leaves the EU and Parliament should decide. But the government said EEA membership ends when the UK leaves the EU.

Who is in the UK Livestock Brexit Group?

The group's 18 members are: Livestock Auctioneers Association, Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland, Central Association of Agricultural Values, National Beef Association, Scottish Beef Association, National Sheep Association, National Farmers Union, National Farmers Union of Scotland, Farmers Union of Wales, Tenant Farmers Association, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, Welsh Tennant Farmers Association, Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, British Meat Processors Association, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, National Pig Association, British Poultry Council, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.