The UK does not have a blank sheet of paper to redesign its agricultural trade and farm support policies post Brexit.
Regardless of the whether a trade agreement is in place with the EU, the UK will need to abide by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules affecting agricultural and trade policy when it exits the EU.
AHDB have explored the relevant issues in a new Horizon report, released on 29 June at the AHDB Meat Export Conference 2017.
AHDB Head of Strategic Insight, David Swales said: “The WTO exists primarily to liberalise world trade, and provides a framework of rules to achieve this. These rules are far reaching and have implications not only for UK trade but also for UK policy and policy of the devolved nations.
“Brexit means the UK will need to notify the WTO of its intended schedule of tariffs and levels of support. An open question remains on whether the UK will inherit the current level of tariffs and support from the EU, or whether it intends to produce its own schedule.
“In addition, there are some Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) such as those for New Zealand Lamb that have been agreed at WTO level. The question on how these will be divided between the EU and the UK is also as yet unanswered.
“It has been suggested that animal welfare standards could be used to prevent imports from countries with lower standards than the UK. However, WTO rules mean that this is highly likely to be challenged by other member states, and needs to be based on a sound scientific or legal basis if UK standards are to be set higher than the prevailing international standards.
“In terms of policy support, the type of policy the UK can adopt post – Brexit is also constrained by WTO rules, with trade distorting subsidies being limited and reduced over time. Whilst the overall level of support is more likely to be impacted by the UK governments spending priorities, the structure of agricultural policy will have to adhere to WTO rules.”
The WTO and its implications for agriculture, alongside AHDB’s other Horizon publications, is available online at www.ahdb.org.uk/brexit