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NPA backs farming unions' calls for tariff review

20th Mar 2019 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA is backing the UK farming unions in calling on the Government to revise its recent announcement on the UK’s no deal import tariff regime.

Tariff graphic

The announcement confirmed some sensitive sectors would see similar tariff rates applied to those applied by the EU today, while others, including pigs, would see import tariffs in place but at significantly lower rates. Other sectors would receive no tariff protection at all.  

The UK farming unions have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond warning that the announcement is another example of how British farming will be damaged by a no-deal Brexit. The letter reaffirms the farming unions’ position of being absolutely committed to avoiding a disorderly exit from the EU.

NFU President Minette Batters said the announcement confirmed the NFU’s view that leaving the EU without a deal in place would be catastrophic for UK farming.

“While we acknowledge that the tariff policy announced earlier this month is intended to be temporary and would be in direct response to an undesirable situation facing the country, we have very significant concerns about the damage this policy would cause to farmers across the country,” she said.

She pointed out that even those sectors that are treated sensitively by our government would, in most instances, see worrying and large reductions in the tariff rates currently charged on non-EU imports. 

“Without the maintenance of tariff protections we would be in danger of opening up the UK to imported food which would be illegal to be produced here, produced at a lower cost because it may fail to meet the environmental and animal welfare standards which are legally required of our own farmers,” she added.

Mrs Batters also that while the unions respected the government’s decision to avoid a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, treating Northern Ireland in effect as a separate customs territory from Great Britain is ‘not appropriate’. The Government’s failure to secure reciprocal commitments from the Republic of Ireland is ‘unacceptable’, she added. “It is imperative that government does not allow the Northern Irish border to become a loophole that only works to the benefit of Irish businesses to the detriment of UK producers,” she said.

Mrs Batters stressed that while there is still the possibility of a no-deal exit, the Government must act now to address these concerns and revise the tariffs and quotas accordingly, ‘to try and lessen the significant damage which a no-deal would inflict on the UK farming sector’.

NPA reaction

NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said: “While we welcome the fact that the tariff proposals include some protection for pork, we share the farming unions’ concerns about the low rates proposed.

“We understand that the Government is seeking to is seeking to prevent major food price rises, but the proposed regime would significantly reduce barriers to non-EU imports and open up the UK to the threat of imports produced to lower production standards than permitted here. That is something we are desperately keen to avoid and we reiterate the farming unions’ calls for the Government to review its tariff proposals with this at the forefront of its mind.

"This uneven tariff regime would be just one of many damaging elements of a no deal for the pig industry. We continue to urge the Government and MPs to take actions to ensure this scenario is avoided." 

See the NPA's briefing on the imapct of no deal tariffs on the pig sector here