A leading trade expert has warned the Government will struggle to apply tariffs on EU food imports in a no-deal Brexit.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove’s promise to protect the sheep, beef, poultry, dairy and pig sectors with tariffs was widely welcomed by industry bodies last week, but concerns have now been raised about how the pledge will work in practice.
Last October, Defra’s top civil servant, Clare Moriarty, told MPs the Government is not planning to carry out any checks on EU food imports in a no-deal scenario in the short-term, making it difficult for tariffs or quotas to be applied.
David Henig, UK director of the European Centre for International Political Economy and former Department for International Trade official, sounded the alarm in the latest episode of Farmers Guardian’s Ploughing Through Brexit podcast.
He said: “I have tried to avoid using the word chaos about no deal in the past, but I cannot see how this cannot be chaos.
“Five weeks to go and we do not actually know if there going to be a quota for EU imports and for our exports to the EU, what the quota is going to be, how the quota is going to operate, where we are going to check anything or what is going to happen to goods which criss-cross the Irish border, which happens quite a lot.
“One official I spoke to this week said they were spending more time talking to Ministers about what they should say in the media than actually doing no-deal planning.
“If that does not worry you, it probably should.”
NFU president Minette Batters, who was also a guest on the podcast, said these kind of problems were the reason why the union had always demanded an orderly departure.
“No deal is catastrophic on many levels, and David has just highlighted the total chaos this is,” she said.
“There is lack of agreement going forward. I think Michael Gove has made very much a single-handed, strong attempt to make sure agriculture has some protection, but it is not supported by others in the Cabinet and it absolutely reaffirms our view that we have to leave in an orderly manner.”