Changes to the no-deal tariff schedule put together by Theresa May’s Government could be on the way, with Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers confirming a ‘review’ has taken place.
Industry bodies including the NFU, National Pig Association (NPA) and British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) have called for the tariffs on cereals, fruit and vegetables, pork products and eggs to be amended, as they have the potential to undermine domestic producers.
NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker said: “In the event of no deal, the UK would apply nominal tariffs of 4-5 per cent on imported pork, while tariffs on UK pork exports to the EU would be up to 45 per cent.
“If this were to happen, it would open up the UK to unlimited pork imports from around the world, produced to standards which are often illegal here.”
Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee on September 9, Ms Villiers said an announcement on any possible reforms to the tariffs would be made ‘shortly’, while Michael Gove, who is heading up the Government’s no-deal planning at the Cabinet Office, told Parliament’s Brexit committee he wanted the new schedule to be published before October 14.
The Defra Secretary also confirmed Ministers would be able to make quick changes to tariff rates if they caused problems.
She said: “There will be an emergency review mechanism within the tariff schedule, so if we feel there is unfair or excessive market disruption as a result of the no-deal tariff schedule, we have the option to make amendments prior to the six or 12-month period where the formal review has taken place.”
NFU chief Brexit and international trade adviser Gail Soutar told Farmers Guardian the emergency review mechanism would offer ‘much-needed flexibility’, but suggested more detail was required about how it would work in practice.
She said: “We currently do not know what circumstances would trigger it or when this would take place.
“It is crucial the Government works with industry to put in place an effective mechanism, underpinned by statute, which means Ministers can take swift action to resolve any issues arising as a result of this policy.”
The union’s crop board chair, Tom Bradshaw, added Ministers would need to ‘proactively monitor’ UK cereal prices relative to the EU’s if the review mechanism was to be effective.