Fears in the UK that dairy produce tariffs after Brexit 'could prompt rapid rise in prices'
The imposition of trading tariffs on dairy produce after Brexit could push up prices for consumers or have dire consequences for farmers, industry leaders have said.
Dairy industry bosses told MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that tariffs with Europe or falling back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in the absence of a deal with the EU could block exports or see consumer prices rising.
Paul Vernon, chairman of industry body Dairy UK, said: "Exports are critical for our business and for the industry.
"Tariffs could block exports and equally they could block tariffs, or if tariffs were to be accepted on imports, we could see inflation at a consumer level increasing quite rapidly.
"Tariffs are not something we would want either way."
And he warned: "WTO tariffs on dairy do what they are designed to do, they will stop trade."
The ability for the dairy industry to absorb tariffs under WTO rules, which are in the region of 40% to 50% on products such as cheese, would be "minimal if not non-existent".
"They would either block trade or be reflected in consumer prices, and that reflection would have knock-on consequence of reducing demand for dairy, so it's a vicious circle, not a virtuous circle."