The NFU and CLA have welcomed Government proposals for a transitional deal with the EU after Brexit.
Under the plans, the UK would retain a temporary customs union with the EU for about two years – a key ask from farming groups.
Ordinarily, this arrangement would leave Britain unable to strike any new trade deals, but Brexit Secretary David Davis is set to push for the right to sign new agreements during the transition phase without bringing them into force.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “We are delighted to hear the Government will be arguing for a transition period post-March 2019.
“We cannot afford that cliff-edge departure – it would have a devastating effect on certain sectors, particularly sheep, if we ended up with tariffs on our exports to Europe.
“Obviously we need to be in the customs union through the transition period as I believe it would take at least two to three years to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with the EU.”
The CLA, while welcoming the proposal, sounded a more cautious note.
The group’s senior business and economics adviser Dr Charles Trotman said: “On the face of the Government’s proposal to introduce a temporary customs union, it seems the agricultural sector’s need for continued access to, and trading in the union is recognised.
“However, the devil is invariably in the detail, and in this particular negotiation process, it takes infinitely more than two to tango.
“We welcome this initial proposal, but further clarity is needed on the interim and long-term customs arrangements to sustain a transitional agreement on continued free trade.”