British beef would be 'uncompetitive overnight' after no-deal Brexit - food officials
Some British food, including beef and lamb, would become “uncompetitive overnight” on foreign markets in the event of a no-deal Brexit, food industry representatives told members of parliament yesterday.
Crashing out of the EU without an agreement would leave producers with customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization - where agricultural tariffs could top 50pc, Sarah Baker, from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, said.
The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29, but there is no full exit deal and Britain’s ruling party is split over Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Chequers” plan to largely accept a “common rulebook” over goods.
That “Chequers” plan was the least bad option for Britain, industry officials told the UK parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee.
A failure of that plan, and a subsequent departure without an agreement, would leave producers facing heavy tariffs, they added.
“Agriculture is probably the most heavily-protected (sector) and therefore tariffs of above 50pc are not unusual (under WTO terms),” Baker said. Products including beef, lamb and seed potatoes “would just become uncompetitive overnight,” she added.
The case was particularly pressing in Scotland where agriculture made up a bigger share of the economy than the UK as a whole, she told Reuters after the hearing.
Other products would take time to establish a strong presence outside Europe, said other officials.