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NFU reacts to potential import tariff schedule of a no-deal Brexit

13 March 2019, at 10:19am

NFU President Minette Batters comments on the publication of the UK Government's import tariff schedule, and calls for MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Responding to the publication of the Government’s import tariff schedule in the event of a no-deal Brexit, NFU President Minette Batters said: "While we are relieved that we are finally able to see the tariffs that will be applied on imported food in a ‘no-deal’ scenario, it is appalling that we only now have this opportunity to do so - a fortnight before they could come into effect. Farmers and food businesses have no time to prepare for the implications, which will be exacerbated by the fact that we will face tariffs on our own exports on food into the EU and other countries with whom we currently enjoy free trade arrangements.

“Although we are pleased to see that the government has listened to our concerns and elected to treat many agricultural sectors sensitively, which may support farmers who are already facing disastrous disruption from no-deal, it is enormously worrying that some sectors will not have this protection – noticeably eggs, cereals, fruit and vegetables.

“Even those sectors that are treated sensitively will, in most instances, see worrying and large reductions in the tariff rates currently charged on non-EU imports. Furthermore, the approach taken by the government to lump products under the same high-level tariff code, for example whole carcasses and high value cuts of fresh beef, means there is a high chance of market distortion for many sectors who are deemed to have been treated sensitively.

“We recognise the importance of ensuring food prices for consumers do not rise in a no-deal Brexit but we are deeply concerned that the approach to tariffs published [on 13 March] will mean a greater reliance on food produced overseas. This would not necessarily lead to cheaper food for consumers but would mean we export and increase the environmental impact of our food production while losing control of the high standards of animal welfare to which that food is produced. In a no-deal scenario the government must act immediately to revise these tariffs and quotas should this happen.

“But more importantly, the publication of this tariff is another example of how British farming will be damaged by a no-deal Brexit. No-deal must be taken off the table and a workable solution identified by MPs and government as a matter of urgency that takes us into an orderly Brexit.”