Seven major agricultural exporters, including the United States and New Zealand, have rejected a UK-EU deal on post-Brexit agricultural trade.
British and European negotiators had been working on an agreement to split tariff rate quotas (TRQs), which allow certain amounts of agricultural produce to enter the EU from countries outside the bloc, since July.
It was recently announced they had hashed out a deal based on historical import volumes, but they have been dealt a blow by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay and Thailand, who co-signed a stinging letter with the US and New Zealand objecting to the agreement.
UK farmers could be seriously affected by any change to TRQs if Britain’s share of the quotas allows too much to be imported, especially if they cannot export as much to the EU.
The letter from the six objectors read: “We are aware of media reports suggesting the possibility of a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union 27 countries about splitting TRQs based on historical averages.
“We would like to record that such an outcome would not be consistent with the principle of leaving other WTO members no worse off, nor fully honour the existing TRQ access commitments.
“Thus, we cannot accept such an agreement.
“We expect the UK and the EU will act to ensure countries entitled to those access rights will be left no worse off than they are at present, in terms of both the quantity and quality of access.”
The countries complaining about the deal claim they will be left ‘worse off’ because a separate UK quota would mean exporters could not compensate for low British demand by selling to another EU country, as they can at present.
To mitigate this, it is expected they will demand higher quotas, allowing them to sell more to the UK with no tariff.