Tariffs for most food imports such as sheepmeat, beef, poultry, dairy and pigmeat will stay up in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Defra Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.
Mr Gove made the remarks in his speech to NFU conference in Birmingham today (February 19).
The promise will be welcome relief for the dairy and pig sectors, which had been concerned they would be overlooked as other Defra Ministers focused exclusively on the need to protect beef and sheepmeat.
The no-deal tariff schedule is expected to be confirmed at a meeting tomorrow and published ‘later this week’.
Mr Gove said: “The Government is doing everything it can, not just to secure a deal, but to mitigate the impact leaving without a deal would have.
“The NFU and others have made strong arguments about the need in such an eventuality to secure strong tariff protection, and in particular, stronger protection for British farming over any other sector of the economy.
“In particular, you have argued we need tariffs on sheepmeat, beef, poultry, dairy, like milk and cheese and pigmeat, in order to safeguard our valuable domestic production.
“Your concerns have absolutely been heard.”
The Secretary of State went on to say he ‘would not hesitate’ to provide direct cash support for the most vulnerable sectors on top of tariff protection.
But for farmers in the arable sector, there was more disappointing news.
In response to a question from NFU crops board chair Tom Bradshaw, who said the combinable crops sector would lose £300 million a year if the UK Government were to unilaterally drop tariffs in this area, Mr Gove said some ‘unpalatable’ choices had to be made because a no-deal situation posed challenges.
“I hope when we make our announcement we can pick up the conversation then, and you can understand why Government has had to make the decision in the way it has,” he added.
“That decision has not yet been confirmed, it should be confirmed at a meeting tomorrow afternoon then an announcement will be made.”