Farm groups have reiterated their calls for a review of the no-deal tariff schedule put together by Theresa May’s Government, demanding greater protection for eggs, pork, dairy products and grains.
The original schedule was published in the middle of February this year, just over a month before the UK was due to leave the EU, on March 29.
It was assembled after extensive wrangling between former Defra Secretary Michael Gove, who favoured protection for the agricultural sector, and other Ministers including ex-Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who preferred a more liberalised approach.
Now, the NFU has written to the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to warn lower tariffs on imports into the UK would put pressure on farmgate prices at a time when EU tariffs on exports would be generating a surplus of domestically-produced food.
As well as asking for the rate on certain products to be adjusted, the NFU has also demanded zero-tariff arrangements for the land border on the island of Ireland are reviewed and ‘detailed arrangements’ are in place for monitoring to understand the impact of the tariff regime, allowing for rapid changes if needed.
The union’s president Minette Batters said: “We understand this tariff policy is intended to be temporary and in response to an undesirable situation.
“However, it is imperative such an approach does not form the basis for the UK’s long-term international trade policy.
“Government must act now to address our concerns and revise the tariff regime.”
The NFU’s call comes just two weeks after the National Pig Association warned British pig producers would be undercut by US and Canadian imports if the tariff schedule was not reviewed.
Under current terms, the UK’s proposed no-deal tariffs on pork imports are between 3 and 5 per cent, but unlike other sectors, pigmeat does not have the additional protection of tariff rate quotas.
This means all countries would have the same level of access to the UK market, opening up opportunities for cheaper US and Canadian products.
Writing exclusively for Farmers Guardian’s Brexit hub, NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker said: “We believe at the very least, there should be tariff rate quotas placed upon pork imports in the event of a no deal which match existing trade flows.
“Failure to do so could see severe and irreversible consequences, no matter how unintended they may be.”