Friday, March 22, 2019

Avoid no-deal Brexit at all costs, MPs warned

January 2, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

MPs are being urged to rule out a no-deal Brexit amid heightened concern that leaving the EU without a trade agreement will be disastrous for British farmers.

It follows an extraordinary meeting of the NFU’s ruling council last month in London. Farm leaders at the meeting agreed six principles that will guide the NFU as it seeks the best outcome from Brexit for British farmers (see below).

NFU President Minette Batters said: “The NFU is deeply frustrated and disappointed that nearly two and half years after the referendum we are no closer to finding out the details of our future relationship with the EU and what trading environment we could be operating under in the future.”

‘Absolutely unacceptable’

MPs are due to vote on the government’s proposed Brexit deal later in January. But with less than three months before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March, Ms Batters said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for agriculture to be left with this level of uncertainty.”

A no-deal Brexit would see the UK revert to World Trade Organisation rules – including swingeing tariffs on imports and exports of agri-food products. The NFU has warned that continued tariff-free access to the EU is crucial for farmers.

UK sheepmeat exports, with a tariff of at least 50%, would become uncompetitive on the EU market. Beef would face a similar challenge. In the cereals sector, wheat and barley exports would be most affected with about 80% of exports going to EU markets.

Ms Batters said: “We have repeatedly said that a no deal scenario would be catastrophic for farming, but political events have created further doubt and uncertainty. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting this right for farming.”

Matter of urgency

The NFU’s six principles include ensuring that trade in agri-food goods remains as free as possible. The union remains hopeful that policy-makers in Brussels and Westminster will come to workable solution as a matter of urgency.

Mrs Batters said: “We will be using these principles to assess which, of any, future options on the table are most, and least, likely to ensure farmers can continue to serve the country – producing food for the nation.”

It was crucial that high standards of food safety and production were not undermined by lower standard imports from elsewhere in the world, she added. A framework was needed to support farmers as food producers and custodians of the countryside.

Underlining the union’s determination to get the best deal possible for British farmers, Ms Batters added: “These are extraordinary times and the NFU is committed to remaining on the front foot during an ever-changing political climate.”

Six principles

• Avoiding a no-deal Brexit
• As free trade as possible in agri-food products
• Greater regulatory control over UK farms
• Access to seasonal workers from overseas
• Respect for domestic production standards
• Support for farmers as food producers

(Source: NFU)

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