Scottish Farming Minister Fergus Ewing has told Defra Secretary Michael Gove to ‘get a grip’ after the EU’s chief negotiator warned Brexit would have painful consequences.
Mr Ewing made the comments when Michel Barnier, who is responsible for negotiating Brexit on the EU side, said it was not possible for the UK to leave the single market and keep all its benefits or build a customs union to achieve frictionless trade.
In a stinging speech to the European Economic and Social Committee, Mr Barnier also took aim at those ‘over the Channel’ who ‘created the illusion’ Brexit would be quick and painless.
“While leaving the customs union would involve border formalities, ‘no deal’ would mean very cumbersome procedures and controls, without facilitation, which would be particularly damaging for companies which operate on a ‘just in time’ basis”, he added.
Perishable food producers fall into this category, and concerns have already been raised about hidden barriers such as phytosanitary inspections holding up trade.
Mr Barnier also said 100 per cent of live animals and animal products would be checked at the EU border when the UK leaves the EU.
“I want to be very clear on this”, Mr Barnier added.
“In the case of Brexit, no deal is a return to a distant past, including World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules which would impose customs duties of almost 10 per cent on vehicle imports, an average of 19 per cent for alcoholic beverages and an average of 12 per cent on lamb and fish, for which the vast majority of British exports go to the EU.”
The spat came as Farming Minister George Eustice told the AHDB meat exports conference the vast majority of agricultural sectors in the UK would benefit from a WTO scenario because of falling competition from imports.
He also admitted Ministers had not put any thought into how the Government would support farming in the event of a WTO scenario because we were ‘not at that stage yet’.