The UK Farming Roundtable, which consists of organisations representing farmers and growers from all agricultural sectors across the UK, has warned of the severe impacts that a ‘no-deal’ departure from the EU in March 2019 would have for UK food and farming.
On behalf of the Roundtable, NFU president Minette Batters said: “The members of the Roundtable were clear in their view that a ‘no-deal Brexit’ would be disastrous, not only for our farmers but for the public too, who rely on our ability to provide them with a sustainable, safe and affordable supply of high quality, British food.
“With less than three months until the scheduled day of departure, the Roundtable was concerned that ‘no-deal’ remains a real possibility in the absence of any clear majority for an alternative outcome.
“The Roundtable was particularly concerned that some Parliamentarians continue to make the case that ‘no-deal’ would be a manageable and acceptable outcome to Brexit. Members of the UK Farming Roundtable categorically do not share such a view.”
The Roundtable outlined several major and immediate impacts that would negatively affect farming in a ‘no-deal’ scenario:
- EU legislation could effectively result in a trade embargo on the export of UK animal based products such as meat, eggs and dairy to the EU. These products can only be imported by the EU from approved countries, and it could take months for such status to be granted to the UK. The lamb industry would be particularly impacted. In 2017, 31% of domestic sheep meat production, the equivalent of 4.5million sheep, was exported and 94% was destined for the EU.
- The UK government could avoid charging tariffs on imports to prevent a rise in food prices, which could have a negative impact on domestic food production and consumer choice, as well as an increase in imports of products produced to lower standards.
- Export tariffs could be imposed on the 60% of UK food, feed and drink that go to the EU, increasing export tariffs to an average of 27% on chicken, 46% on lamb, 65% on beef, and range from €172 to €1,494 per tonne in pork.
- It is likely that trade barriers will go up between the UK and EU which could limit the availability of many farm inputs such as veterinary medicines, fertilisers, plant protection products, machinery parts and animal feed. Furthermore, as the EU will no longer recognise UK organic certification bodies, exports of organic products to the EU would be severely curtailed.
- The sudden end of labour mobility from the EU would cause serious problems when it comes to securing the necessary labour to harvest and process UK produce, as well as in related roles such as carrying out veterinary inspections.
Mrs Batters added: “Agriculture is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing industry, food and drink, which is worth £113 billion to the UK economy. Volatile farm gate prices and interrupted supplies would put not only the 500,000 farming jobs at risk, but the many firms that supply these farm and land management businesses.
“Our organisations remain committed to playing their part in managing Brexit in the best interests of both farmers and the UK public in the years ahead, but we believe that leaving without a deal on March 29 will lead, very quickly, to a struggling farming sector.”
“There is a very real risk that a disorderly Brexit will lead to an immediate reliance on overseas imports which have been produced to lower standards, while many UK farms struggle to survive. The implications, not only for the domestic food supply and our wider economy, but for the careful management of our cherished countryside, would represent an historic political failure. A no-deal Brexit must be avoided at all costs.”