Non-tariff barriers will be the biggest threat to agricultural trade after Brexit, a Scottish-Irish conference heard this week.
Abi Kay and Ewan Pate report...
Advisers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and their counterparts at Teagasc, the farm advisory body for the Republic of Ireland, met to discuss the common challenges faced by both countries as the UK leaves the EU.
Brendan Gleeson, assistant secretary general at the Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Dublin, feared the extra costs farmers would face as a result of non-tariff barriers.
Anything which makes trade more difficult can be classed as a non-tariff barrier, including compliance with a different regulatory regime, paperwork, language differences, border checks, quotas, phytosanitary rules or labelling conditions.
“The moment the UK comes up with even one new regulation, we will begin to diverge and life will become more difficult,” Mr Gleeson said.
“I believe most people on both sides want a result as close as possible to present arrangements.”
Dr Kevin Hanrahan, head of rural economy and development at Teagasc, was also concerned about future barriers to trade.
He said: “We would really like the softest Brexit, but that is unlikely now.
"Whatever happens there will be higher trading costs. Tariff barriers are possible, but non-tariff barriers are probable.
“Irish exports to the UK will decline, so we will have to move more to EU markets, and this will put them under pressure.”
The conference was told both Ireland and Scotland would see additional challenges to their competitiveness after the UK leaves the EU.
The value of trade both ways across the Irish Sea is also broadly similar.
“We have more in common than you might think,” Mr Gleeson said.
The single market, also known as the common market or internal market, is designed to ensure the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour inside the EU.
These ‘four freedoms’ are said to be indivisible, which is why the UK was not allowed to make immigration rules for EU nationals more stringent while still a member.
What the single market aimed to do is remove non-tariff barriers, as well as tariffs, by harmonising regulations across all EU member states.
Because, in theory at least, every country in the EU has the same rules and standards, products can move through the union without the need for any border checks or safety inspections.
In practice, this is not always the case, but the European Commission and European Court of Justice are there to enforce rules and resolve disputes, as was the case when the French were forced to open their market to British beef again after the BSE crisis.