UK farmers do not need a comprehensive trade deal with the US to capitalise on American opportunities, NFU international trade director Nick von Westenholz has said.
Mr von Westenholz told peers on the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee that the identification of new markets, promotion of UK produce and stimulation of demand in the US could all be done outside of a bilateral trade agreement.
He also suggested existing regulatory barriers could and perhaps should be lifted outside of negotiations on a comprehensive deal, though pointed out the union was not opposed to such an agreement.
He said: “We cannot currently sell any of our great British lamb into the US because of a long-standing restriction under what is known as the small ruminant rule.
“That is something we have been trying to get removed for many years, and we have a concern that now it is the sort of thing which will be thrown into a trade deal, and therefore we are going to have to give up something in order to secure something we should have had already.”
Mr von Westenholz went on to call on politicians to be ‘more honest’ about the potential downsides of any future trade deals.
“It is surprising that the political messaging we continue to get around trade policy and all trade deals is that there are nothing but upsides for the UK economy and UK producers,” he said.
“If there are parts of our economy which are going to have negative consequences, we need to understand that now so we can look at things like adjustment assistance and restructuring to help those parts of the economy mitigate the effects.
“Simply saying ‘all of you are going to benefit’ is deeply unhelpful and we need to have a more honest conversation about the implications of some of these trade deals.”