The Defra ministerial team were keen to talk about new export opportunities at the Oxford Farming Conference this week, but Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom was forced to concede any increase in tariffs would lead to a decline in exports to the EU during a scheduled press conference.
Mrs Leadsom said there was still a demand for British food and drink in countries where tariffs were in place, but admitted it was ‘probably right’ to say UK exports to the EU would decline if new tariffs were erected.
Calum Kerr, SNP spokesperson for agriculture, said: “We cannot forget about the importance of the EU market. 90 per cent of our exports of beef and lamb go to the EU, so the relationship is critically important.
“WTO rules would mean a minimum tariff of 20 per cent, and modelling has suggested that will mean a 76 per cent increase in costs.
“We need to strike a good deal; otherwise existing markets will disappear, never mind new ones.”
Mrs Leadsom told Farmers Guardian Defra was ‘very well prepared for whatever the scenario on the table is’, adding it was in the EU and the UK’s interests to continue to be able to trade freely.