Northern Irish farmers have expressed concerns that the Prime Minister’s new Brexit deal could see them ‘cut out of’ the Great British market, if the rest of the UK chooses to diverge from EU food production standards.
Under the proposed terms of Boris Johnson’s deal, Northern Ireland would continue to apply EU standards and uphold bans on chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef, but there is scope for rules on the mainland to change.
Giving evidence to peers on the House of Lords European Select Committee this week (November 29), Ivor Ferguson, president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said: “If UK standards were lessened, the main difference would be food produced on the mainland would have less cost, but food in Northern Ireland would be aligned with EU standards and therefore be more expensive.
“The Great British market is our main market for everything we produce in Northern Ireland.
“50 per cent of what we produce goes to the mainland Great British market. If there was divergence, this would be a very big problem.”
Mr Ferguson also expressed fears that Northern Irish farmers could be undercut by cheaper food from other countries the UK strikes deals with after Brexit.
He warned a relaxation of the UK’s food standards could irreparably damage the ‘two-way flow’ of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“If products coming back into our market were of a lesser standard, this would be a major concern,” he said.
“The trade deal with the US is a concern as they have a lower cost standard. Some of those products would be illegal to be produced in Northern Ireland.
“I do not see how we would be able to compete in that market.”