Defra Secretary Liz Truss has highlighted what the risks to farmers are in terms of future trading conditions Brexit would bring, following the publication of a Government report on Brexit this week.
UK farmers could face ‘crippling’ import tariffs if the public votes to leave the EU in June, Defra Secretary Liz Truss has warned.
The Government published a report on Monday (February 29), on the process of withdrawing from the EU if the referendum goes that way.
Commenting on the trade implications set out in the paper, Mrs Truss said it was clear full access to the single market ‘has major benefits for our food and farming industry’.
She said: “European countries are increasingly demanding our high quality produce and the single market makes reaching those 500 million consumers simpler and generates £11bn for farmers and food producers.
“About 60 per cent of our food and drink exports go to the EU with no market access barriers.
“For some of our farming sectors who rely on trade with Europe, facing the same import tariffs as other countries outside the EU would be crippling.”
Mrs Truss said this would happen if no deal was reached after two years of the exit process being commenced, meaning trade would revert to the World Trade Organisation default rules.
Dairy farmers already suffering from low global demand could face an additional 36 per cent tariff to trade with European countries, while ‘it could be as high as 70 per cent’ for our beef industry.
She said: “Lamb producers, for who the EU accounts for 97 per cent of exports, could face additional 40 per cent tariffs.
“We would also have to negotiate new trade agreements with 53 individual nations which are currently agreed through the EU. This would not be easy or fast.”
She highlighted the ongoing ’protracted negotiations’ about opening the US market to British beef more than twenty years after BSE to ’show how hard this can be’.
"The procedures pork producers have to go through to comply with Chinese regulations also require considerable effort and many products like beef and chicken still do not have access to China," she said.
“While these deals are debated our food and farming industry would face damaging uncertainty. Those who want to leave the EU can make no guarantees about future support for farmers because leaving is a leap into the dark.
“At a time of severe price volatility and global market uncertainty it would be wrong to take such a gamble.
“I believe our farming industry would be stronger, safer and better off in a reformed Europe and our special status will gives us the best of both worlds.
Last week, Farming Minister George Eustice, campaigning to leave the EU, set out his Plan B for Brexit at the NFU conference.
He insisted it would be ‘straightforward’ to roll forward current single market arrangements if we left the EU.
"We have trade deficit with the EU of about £60 billion a year. It is in their interest to continue sending their goods here," he said.