A British MEP has revealed her European colleagues are pushing for tariffs on UK agricultural goods as the attitude towards Brexit ‘hardens’ across the Channel.
Conservative Julie Girling, who sits on the EU’s agriculture committee, made the remarks after sponsoring a CLA event in Brussels last week.
The CLA sent a delegation of members to meet MEPs and EU officials to press for a free trade agreement, but Ms Girling told Farmers Guardian the mood by the end of the meeting was ‘sober’.
“The feeling in the UK is we have tried to be as optimistic as we can and look at the positive side of Brexit”, she said.
“But actually it is quite hard to find those positives in this because there are lots of dead ends when you start talking through what the options are. Once you have cut off the single market and the customs union, you are into unknown territory.”
Ms Girling said she had sponsored the event because she was very concerned food and farming were not high up enough on the Brexit agenda, but she was not optimistic about the chances of getting zero tariff access to the single market.
When asked about the suggestion tariffs would be imposed to protect European farmers – made by the vice president of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, and the trade spokesperson for the biggest party in the parliament, Daniel Caspary – Ms Girling said they were both being ‘very honest’ and their comments were an ‘accurate read out’ of the situation.
“There is a way in which we could have zero tariffs and that is to be in the customs union, but the Prime Minister has overtly said we will not be in the customs union”, she added.
“On the table there is no route other than a bespoke route, and of course from a UK point of view I am absolutely in favour of that, but you heard what colleagues are saying – why would the EU do that?
“Daniel Caspary is an extremely experienced MEP, he knows everything there is to know about trade and he comes from the biggest member state, so I think his views should be taken seriously.”