Saturday 19 October 2019

British farmers demanding tariffs on dairy imports in event of no deal

Called on: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was sent a letter. Photo: Andrew Parsons/PA Wire
Called on: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was sent a letter. Photo: Andrew Parsons/PA Wire
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

UK farmers are demanding that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson slap tariffs on EU dairy products in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Britain's National Farmers' Union (NFU) wrote to Mr Johnson last Friday calling for an urgent review of the British government's trade tariff policy that would come into effect if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31.

Around 22pc of Ireland's dairy exports go to the UK, primarily cheddar cheese and butter.

In March, the UK government, under then prime minister Theresa May, announced a plan to eliminate tariffs on many imports, including some dairy products and agricultural products, to avoid a so-called hard Border with Ireland.

In the letter, NFU president Minette Batters reaffirmed the union's view that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for British farming and any exiting of the EU must be smooth and orderly.

"If we leave without a deal, the sudden change in our trading relationship with the EU will have severe impacts on the UK food and farming sectors, not least due to the tariff treatment of both imports and exports.

"Clearly the imposition of tariffs on our exports to the EU will most likely lead to a surplus of domestic products on the UK market, while at the same time lower or no tariffs on imports into the UK will put further pressure on domestic producer prices," she said.

Ms Batters said the situation was particularly stark on the island of Ireland where no tariffs would be collected on imports across the land Border.

"There is no indication that such an arrangement will be reciprocated by the EU and there is nothing in practical terms to stop this trade becoming an open gateway for all EU goods entering the UK duty free," she said.

Ms Batters also warned of the danger of opening up the UK to imported food which would be illegal to be produced in Britain. "Government must act now to address our concerns and revise the tariff regime to try to lessen the significant damage which a no-deal would inflict on the UK farming sector," she said.

"It is also important that government manages prices for the public in a no-deal scenario.

"These tariff arrangements will have little impact on retail food prices yet could have a massive impact on the viability of farm businesses," she warned.

Irish Independent

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