A no-deal Brexit at the end of this year could lead to the premature slaughter of ‘millions of lambs’, a peer has warned, as pressure on the Government to protect agriculture ramped up.
Lord Bruce of Bennachie has tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would force the Government to carry out an impact assessment for the beef and sheep sectors if the UK cannot reach an agreement with the EU before the end of the transition period on December 31.
According to AHDB figures, about 82 per cent of UK beef exports go to the EU, and 89 per cent of lamb.
In a no-deal scenario, a 92 per cent tariff would be levied on beef carcases and 45 per cent on a lamb carcase, plus additional tariffs which can add more than 100 per cent to the price.
Lord Bruce said: “Prices of beef and lamb may fall to the benefit of the British consumer in the short run.
“However, if there is a large scale welfare cull by farmers unable to feed the animals with no market in prospect, much of the stock may never reach the shelves.
“In any case, the UK lacks the cold storage to absorb a mass cull on this unprecedented scale.
“At the same time, if it sees the rearing of sheep and cattle undermined and bankrupt farmers leaving the sector, it could lead to future shortages and a radical change in the landscape, especially of our uplands.”
In 2019, the Government prepared a £150 million no-deal compensation scheme for the sheep sector, based on Defra modelling which showed lamb prices would rise by 20 per cent in Europe, leading to increased supply and decreased demand on the UK market.
According to Defra Secretary George Eustice, this would depress UK prices, but only to levels seen in late-2015.
Very little information was officially released about the scheme, but two options – a headage payment on breeding ewes or a slaughterhouse premium on lambs at the point of slaughter – were known to be under consideration.
At the time, there were no plans for similar compensation schemes for other sectors.