Industry leaders are in ‘crisis planning’ mode after the new Prime Minister ramped up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Both Boris Johnson and former Defra Secretary Michael Gove – who is now responsible for working on no-deal – said the Government was ‘turbo charging’ no-deal preparations as it was ’now the most likely option’.
Mr Johnson told Welsh farmers on July 30 that the Government was not aiming for a no-deal Brexit and that it would be ‘up to the EU’ if that was the outcome.
But NFU president Minette Batters made it clear the industry was ‘full-on crisis planning for no-deal’, calling for reciprocal tariffs for those sectors currently unprotected.
She said: “Talk of higher standards in a no-deal scenario is impossible. Ministers will need to stick to their pre-referendum promise of deregulating farming to allow survival.”
Ms Batters said politicians’ views that the country could trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms and have higher standards was a ‘thoroughly dishonest approach’.
“While I appreciate contingency plans must be in place, it is absolutely critical the Government’s energy is primarily focused on reaching a deal,” she said.
NFU Cymru president John Davies added: “Although we avoided a no-deal cliff edge back in the spring, we were given a real glimpse over the precipice into what it might mean for Welsh agriculture.
“What we saw was a lopsided picture of low or even zero tariff rates on agri-food products coming into the UK, contrasted with the punitive tariffs our goods would face when exported to EU27 and the rest of the world.”
National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said tariff relief was the association’s preferred option to ‘keep the market functioning’ if access to the EU was to be entirely closed.
“The NSA also believes steps must be taken to temporarily close the UK to sheepmeat imports while we are unable to export and focus on getting all our production into our own domestic markets,” he added.
It came as national media outlets reported a plan by Mr Gove to put aside £500m to buy up hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unsold lamb and beef in the event of a no-deal.
The BBC however said the move was likely to be unworkable businesses which store frozen and chilled food were ‘full to bursting’.