Brexit: Liam Fox has underestimated difficulty of getting British farmers a good trade deal, MEPs warn
Cross-party letter seen by The Independent shows concern for farmers after Brexit
MEPs representing the UK’s agricultural communities are “deeply concerned” that Liam Fox has underestimated how difficult it will be to get British farmers a good trade deal after Brexit, according to private correspondence obtained by The Independent.
A joint letter from MEPs across all the UK’s main parties to the international trade secretary demands answers on how much progress Theresa May’s trade chief has made on keeping access to markets around the globe – with farmers still facing uncertainty with just a year to go until Brexit.
Dr Fox previously said a Brexit trade deal would be “the easiest in human history”, but the MEPs warn that it is now becoming clear that securing a good deal not just for access to EU markets but around the world would be “complex and time-consuming matter”.
The 18 MEPs, who all either represent agricultural areas or sit on the European parliament’s agriculture committee, are members of the Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and SNP – as well as Mr Fox’s own Conservative Party.
The Department for International Trade, which The Independent contacted for a response to the letter, said the Brexit transition period would provide “continuity” on current trade terms.
MEPs say they are still in the dark about what progress has been made on getting existing EU trade deals with other countries applied to Britain during the transition period, and ask the international trade secretary for an update.
They also ask for information about how much progress has been made on getting non-EU countries to recognise that Britain still follows EU standards during the transition period, and whether any progress has been made on a scheme to replace EU rules that protect products such a Cornish pasties, West Country Cheddar cheese, and Gloucestershire cider.
Though Britian will continue to follow EU rules during the transition period, which starts in less than a year’s time, it will not be an EU member state and there are concerns that other countries will not have to recognise it as such for the purposes of existing EU trade deals that give Britain farmers access to markets. The situation is made more urgent by the fact that the UK cannot even begin to negotiate replacement deals with other countries until it has left the EU.