Two leading organisations representing the rural economy have written to the Prime Minister to set out how best to mitigate the risks to the agriculture sector of a No Deal Brexit.
The Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers Association both said that leaving the EU without a deal is ‘deeply undesirable’, but welcomed Government efforts to prepare for all eventualities.
Tim Breitmeyer, President of the Country Land and Business Association said:
“For some sectors in the rural economy, leaving the EU without a deal would be deeply damaging. But make no mistake, damage would be done to the European economy too. That is why we encourage both sides to return to the negotiating table immediately.
“It is incumbent on business groups now to work with Government closely and proactively. Our recommendations are designed to help Government mitigate the risks of No Deal and prepare for the future, giving a degree of certainty to the thousands of rural businesses who are dependent on a thriving export market.”
James Gray, National Chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association said:
“Leaving the European Union will bring both opportunities and challenges for the farming industry. However, it would be reckless to leave the European Union without a deal and without a package of underpinning measures for the agricultural industry. Severe restrictions to export markets through both tariff and nontariff barriers, cutting access to important migrant labour supplies and leaving us open to imports of food ingredients and products produced to standards banned at home would be calamitous for our country’s food and environmental security”
The letter, sent to the Prime Minister in early August, called on Government to focus on a number of key areas in the run-up to 31 October. They include:
Maintaining and developing market access through:
- ensuring continued access to EU export markets for agricultural commodities, for example through Tariff Rate Quotas under WTO rules
- together with developing enhanced routes to market both at home (for example, through public procurement, as well as avoidance of any impediments to trade within the UK) and abroad, using our already high standards for environment and animal welfare as a key selling point.
Responding swiftly to market disturbance through:
- a transition support package to primary producers who will see the value of their output undermined by EU tariffs in a way that considers the industry’s long-term capacity
- the implementation of the import tariffs on food announced in March 2019. They need to be kept under review and adjusted according to market conditions and perhaps extended to other products
- ensuring tariff-free access to imported inputs for the agricultural industry including agrochemicals, machinery and spare parts.
Enabling longer-term profitability in a no-Deal context through:
- a commitment from the Government that it will consider the migrant labour needs of the farming industry, with the ability to source labour from the EU or elsewhere
- regulating to ensure fair treatment of and fair returns to primary producers in the food chain
- legislating to ban the importation of any food ingredients or food products that have been produced using techniques which would be banned anywhere in the UK
- reviewing the timing of the transition to a new policy platform and leaving the current arrangements in place until the economic realities of operating outside of the EU are clearer.