A top European politician has warned the EU could slap tariffs on UK agricultural goods to protect its farmers in an exclusive interview with Farmers Guardian.
Mairead McGuiness, vice president of the European Parliament and a member of the EU’s agriculture committee, made the remarks as the NFU used its latest vision paper to say ‘free and frictionless’ trade between the UK and the EU should be a top priority for the Government.
She said: “The CAP is a core policy of the European Union, to support farmers and rural regions and to supply quality food to EU consumers. When the [Brexit] discussions move to phase 3 – the partnership – the question of tariffs will arise.
“The UK has indicated it is leaving the single market and the customs union as it wants to make global trade agreements. In this context, the EU will be mindful of defending the interests of its farmers and consumers when negotiating the future partnership with the UK.”
Similar comments were made in February by Daniel Caspary, trade spokesperson for the European People’s Party – the largest party in the European Parliament – who said the EU had never offered zero tariffs on agriculture in any trade deal because European farmers need protection.
“If Britain leaves the EU and contributes no longer to the CAP, I do not believe in a zero per cent tariff”, he added.
“What kind of signal would that be sending to other trading partners?”
Though the NFU’s vision paper makes clear trade relationships with the EU and other existing preferential partners should take priority over deals with third countries, it does make some concrete demands of Government on those deals for the first time.
The union called for farming businesses to be consulted on trade talks from the moment they start; for detailed economic assessments of the impact of any proposed trade agreements to be carried out; for UK sensitive sectors to be protected and for any food produced with different environmental or animal welfare standards to be mandatorily labelled.
It also said the UK should be able to benefit from the EU’s bespoke deal with the World Trade Organisation which allows European Governments to pay certain kinds of agricultural subsidies.
Read FG’s full interview with Mairead McGuinness HERE.