Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Brexit think-tank calls for UK to scrap all agricultural tariffs

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Sarah Collins

The UK should scrap all agricultural tariffs post-Brexit and reconsider bans on chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated beef and genetically modified food, a new study has recommended.

“If Britain is to take full opportunity of leaving the EU and base its standards on science rather than protection, some regulatory divergence is probably inevitable,” says the report by Policy Exchange, a right-leaning UK think-tank.

The organisation is the same one that published a recent analysis by retired Irish civil servant Ray Bassett saying Ireland should leave the EU in the event of a hard Brexit.

The new report says farmers should be allowed to “decide whether they wish to meet the standards needed to export to the EU, or instead follow the UK’s own standards and target international markets,” the report says.

It says the UK should use the “opportunity” of leaving the EU and Customs Union “to phase out all tariffs protecting agriculture”, which the report says could “create momentum behind a new coalition of liberalising countries like Australia, New Zealand and Singapore”.

The report comes after a decades-long row with the US over an EU ban on hormone-treated beef resurfaced, while UK trade secretary Liam Fox last month said he would consider allowing imports of chlorine-washed chicken under a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

The EU has insisted it will not lower its food safety standards, which the Policy Exchange report says are too “restrictive” and lead to inflated food prices.


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The report also counsels the UK to phase out direct subsidies for farmers by 2025, redirecting money to environmental protection, R&D or retraining.

The UK government has promised to ensure direct payments to farmers until 2022, but farming groups last Friday issued a joint statement calling on the prime minister to agree a post-Brexit transition period where the UK “retains unfettered access to European markets, remaining within the Customs Union”.

The report comes the same week the deputy head of the French farmers’ federation told news station France24 that the EU would seek to punish the UK on financial services if London cuts off payments to the bloc’s budget post-Brexit.

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