Food price rises will be inevitable if the UK Government maintains its proposed global tariffs in a no-deal Brexit scenario, a leading trade expert has warned.
Last month, farm groups cautiously welcomed the new tariffs put forward by Ministers, which protect key agricultural products such as lamb, beef, poultry, cheese and butter.
The rates were worked up on the assumption that tariff-free trade will continue between the UK and EU as a result of a new trade deal, but Dmitry Grozoubinski, founder of the Explain Trade website, has suggested they will need to be changed if no agreement can be reached before the end of this year.
He said: “Unusually for trade, the arithmetic here is fairly simple. Almost half the primary agricultural products in the UK in any given year come from the EU.
“If there is no trade deal at the end of transition, then under the newly announced tariffs, about 85 per cent of those traditional EU-sourced imports will face significant tariffs.
“That cannot help but impact prices for retailers, producers and ultimately, consumers.”
An earlier tariff schedule put together by Theresa May’s Government in 2019 specifically for a no-deal scenario did not include protection for cereals, fruit and vegetables, pork products or eggs, sparking criticism from the NFU, National Pig Association (NPA) and British Egg Industry Council (BEIC).
At the time, former Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers said Ministers had sought to ‘get the right balance’ between keeping food prices down and protecting the UK’s agriculture sector, but NFU president Minette Batters denied any food inflation would take place if protections were extended.
More recently, the union has urged the Government to provide clarity around how it plans to adjust the tariffs announced last month, particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit.