Farm groups have cautiously welcomed the Government’s new tariff schedule, which maintains protections for key agricultural products such as lamb, beef, poultry, cheese and butter.
In a joint statement, the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union said they welcomed the safeguards, but pointed out the tariffs were likely to be negotiated away as new trade deals were signed and reiterated their calls for domestic food production standards to be maintained.
The four unions also warned some ‘simplifications’ to tariffs, where they have been rounded down or expressed as a single percentage, could have certain implications for domestically produced products.
Ministers published the new global tariff rates, which cover over 11,800 different products, this week.
They have been worked up on the assumption that tariff-free trade will continue between the UK and EU as a result of a new trade deal.
An earlier schedule put together for a no-deal Brexit scenario had protected fewer agricultural products.
Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn said: “This is a complex area which will need careful scrutiny.
“However, it seems to land us in a much better position than would have been the case if the Government’s previously published tariff schedule, announced towards the end of last year, had come into effect.
“We are pleased the Government has recognised that UK farmers would have faced significant difficulties from tariff liberalisation and that it has therefore struck a balance between producer interests and consumer interests by maintaining tariffs on most agricultural products.”
Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts echoed these comments, but warned the tariffs must not be ‘watered down’.
“We need to maintain tariffs at rates which protect our farmers and food security and give us negotiating capital when discussing trade deals,” he said.
Mark Bridgeman, CLA president, also welcomed the tariff protection for key products.
“We should support new free trade deals which could grow the economy and boost UK trade, and have confidence in our market and standards in these negotiations,” he added.