TARIFFS placed on agricultural imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit will have “catastrophic consequences” for the farmers in the North according to the Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU).
Currently there are no tariffs on those products travelling from the EU to the UK, but the latest government plan proposes a change to this system if a no-deal is reached.
In the latest proposal unveiled by the British government on Wednesday, those goods entering the North from the Republic will continue to be exempt from tariffs, however there will be a high levy on products entering the rest of the UK from the South.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson has expressed his “very real concerns” about the proposal of different tariffs.
“This would drive down prices and hit producers here. It could also potentially open the door to illegal trade which would seriously impact on the integrity of the NI agri-food industry,” he said.
“It is unlikely the EU would offer the same zero tariff to the North or the UK as a whole.”
A no-deal poses a serious threat to business, especially smaller farmers who will be rendered less competitive to their counterparts from other countries and exposes them to a market with much lower food standards.
Last night’s (Wednesday) vote to take the no-deal divorce off the table was voted against by the DUP as it would give too much “leverage and power” to the EU.
The UFU president said although there was a measure of comfort in the government heeding warnings and treating some agriculture sectors as sensitive, the UFU are “concerned some sectors have been excluded and even sensitive sectors will see big reductions in tariff protection”.
“In addition, lumping products together under the same tariff code, for example whole carcasses and high value cuts of fresh beef, threatens market distortion and further problems,” said Mr Ferguson.
“These tariff proposals will not guarantee cheaper food. They would also reduce environmental and animal welfare standards for food sold in the UK. On that basis alone they are unacceptable,” continued Mr Ferguson.
“The UFU supported the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement. While not perfect, it would have got us over the line to avoid a no-deal. Politicians must sort out their differences and come up with solutions to deliver on their Brexit promises to protect the economy.
“Walking off an economic cliff cannot be the answer,” he added.