Senior Government officials have revealed the UK is set to seek a transitional customs agreement with the EU before Brexit – a move which a coalition of farming organisations has called for.
According to European news service Politico, the proposal will be outlined in an official ‘position paper’ which is due for release in the week of August 14.
Fourteen farming groups, including the NFU, CLA, TFA and Soil Association, released a statement last week which pushed for the UK to remain in the customs union during any transition phase.
Such an interim deal would allow Britain to retain unfettered access to European markets, but it would also restrict the UK’s ability to strike new trade deals.
The coalition believes the transition phase could extend well beyond the end of the Brexit talks.
CLA deputy president Tim Breitmeyer said: “Farmers and land managers will benefit from new opportunities in trade and agricultural policy.
“However, we must take the necessary time to put in place the right trade agreements and to develop and robustly test a new policy which will support farming and the environment for the long-term.”
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), which has been calling for a transitional deal since June last year, welcomed the fact that so many farming organisations, as well as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), were calling for the Brexit process to take place over a ‘realistic and safe’ timescale.
FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “It is definitely very important to plan for our lives on the other side of Brexit, but without a bridge which can get us there safely, vast numbers of businesses could be washed away – not just in the agricultural world, but across the board.”
Alongside the position paper on a transitional deal, the Government is set to publish several others, including one on the Irish border issue, as part of a ‘big push’ to prove the UK’s preparedness for Brexit talks.
The Irish paper’s release will be welcomed by Farmers For Action and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA), which met the Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland last week to push for a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.