United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has branded the UK’s decision to maintain tariffs in a no-deal Brexit ‘disappointing’.
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Defra Secretary Michael Gove told NFU conference this week the Government would keep tariffs on food imports such as sheepmeat, beef, poultry, dairy and pigmeat if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The decision, which is due to be formally announced on Monday when the rates are published, was made in spite of pressure to unilaterally drop tariffs from Brexiteers, think tanks and, according to reports, some Cabinet Ministers.
Responding to a question from Farmers Guardian at a Washington press conference, Mr Perdue said: “I have not heard [the announcement] or seen [it]. We were hoping to have a good relationship with the UK, assuming they Brexit.
“We have worked on that, we have had conversations about that, it would be very disappointing if that comes about.
“I think [Mr Gove] would follow the EU model, which I do not think is very helpful to the UK or the international market place.”
Mr Perdue’s comments follow a visit to the US by former Brexit Secretary David Davis, ex-Defra Secretary Owen Paterson and director of international trade at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Shanker Singham, late last year.
The trio shocked the UK agricultural community by using their trip to lobby for a trade deal which would be, according to Mr Davis, ‘beneficial to American farmers’.
Vicki Hird, food and farming campaign co-ordinator at Sustain, described Mr Davis’ comments at the time as ‘an outrage’.
“David Davis was a Government Minister until this summer and yet is so desperate for a hard Brexit that he would throw hardworking UK farmers under a bus in favour of improving trade conditions for their American counterparts,” she said.