The NFU has praised the Government’s post-Brexit trade strategy, saying Defra officials have ‘put a lot of effort’ into ongoing work on the UK’s future membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Lucia Zitti, the union’s Brexit and international trade adviser, told Farmers Guardian she had confidence in British officials’ calculations on how future support payments would meet WTO rules, as well as their negotiations on splitting the EU’s Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs), which limit the amount of produce allowed to enter the bloc at a reduced tariff.
She said: “We have been in contact with Defra staff who are heavily involved in the Geneva negotiations and the process of establishing UK schedules [British WTO trading terms].
“We are reassured by the Government’s thinking. It seems they have given a lot of thought to how they want things to be done and the timings and the strategy, so from purely an agricultural perspective, we are quite reassured by the work of the Government.
“We do not know when the UK schedules will be agreed, but in terms of principles and a starting point, we agree with the strategy.”
Ms Zitti’s remarks came as the head of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, told Sky News he believed the UK had a comprehensive Brexit plan in place.
“I think there is a major strategy”, he said.
“Since the vote there have been a lot of bright people spending 24 hours a day thinking about this and coming up with alternatives and a game plan.”
Mr Azevedo also sought to reassure the 164 members of the WTO that the Brexit transition would be ‘fast and smooth’, saying ‘trade will not stop’.
But Ms Zitti warned EU-UK trade could be disrupted if Britain leaves the bloc with no deal.
“If the UK loses preferential access to the EU market, that might mean trade between the UK and the EU is disrupted”, she said.
“We also do not know whether we will be able to inherit the free trade agreements the EU has negotiated with other countries, but in terms of the WTO – the baseline of trading conditions – things are probably not going to be worse than what we have now.”