To mark the first anniversary of the EU Referendum, Farmers Guardian has asked a number of key figures from the NFU to explain how things have changed for the industry over the past 12 months.
The union’s Brexit and international trade adviser, Lucia Zitti, continues our week-long mini-series with an in-depth look at trade.
The Brexit negotiations are now underway. The question of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and the rest of the world, will be at the forefront of discussions.
Trade is fundamental to farming, with exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks worth £13.8bn in 2016. It is also key to the rest of the food chain and consumers, with imports of food and non-alcoholic drinks more than double the value of exports. UK farmers and growers can rise to this challenge, producing more food, both for domestic and overseas markets – but only if we secure the right trade policy outcome from Brexit.
There are number of potential outcomes to the Brexit negotiations: a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, followed by new trade agreements being struck with countries across the world; or perhaps a failure of the forthcoming negotiations leading to tariffs applied on all trade between the two blocs, with the Government subsequently reducing import tariffs to arrest inflation; and of course any myriad combination of options in-between these two scenarios.
More recently, in the wake of the general election, debates as to whether the UK should remain in the EU customs union have received more attention.
The NFU is pressing for an outcome on trade which supports our farmers to grow their businesses and to grow food for Britain and beyond. Most of our trade in agri-food products is with the EU, and it is therefore crucial that the government strikes a comprehensive agreement between the UK and EU which maintains tariff-free trade with minimal non-tariff barriers.
Government must take a bold but composed approach to forthcoming trade negotiations with both the EU and non-EU countries; one which ensures British farmers can continue to produce food to the current high standards of which they are proud, which ensures they do so on a level-playing field with producers elsewhere in the world, and which provides an adequate level of tariff protection for UK sensitive products when trade agreements are negotiated.