Revise border loophole that only benefits 'Irish' farmers - UK farm unions
UK farming unions have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond demanding that the government does not allow the Northern Irish border to become a loophole that only works to the benefit of Irish businesses to the detriment of UK producers.
Among the signatories of the letter Ulster Farmers Union President Ivor Ferguson said the government’s recent no-deal applied tariff policy announcement confirms our view that to leave the EU without a deal in place would be catastrophic for UK farming.
“While we acknowledge that the tariff policy announced earlier this month is intended to be temporary and would be in direct response to an undesirable situation facing the country, we have very significant concerns about the damage this policy would cause to farmers across the country.
He said treating Northern Ireland in effect as a separate customs territory from Britain is not appropriate and government’s failure to secure reciprocal commitments from the Republic of Ireland is unacceptable.
"It is imperative that government does not allow the Northern Irish border to become a loophole that only works to the benefit of Irish businesses to the detriment of UK producers," he added.
An IFA spokesman said the tariff regime suggested last week would be very damaging for farmers here and in the UK.
Specifically on the idea of routing through Northern Ireland, the spokesman said the idea lacked credibility.
Under a temporary and unilateral regime announced by Theresa May's government, EU goods arriving from the Republic and remaining in Northern Ireland will not be subject to tariffs.
Although tariffs will be payable on goods passing from the EU to mainland Britain, via Northern Ireland, customs officers will rely on intelligence and compliance work, rather than checks on cargoes, to impose the levies.
The UK government insists that this will not create a border down the Irish Sea, as there will be no checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Instead, "normal compliance and intelligence methods" will be used to detect any traders attempting to abuse the system.
Already, commentators are saying this could lead to a smugglers dream as exporters could look to avoid tariffs that would be imposed on direct transport between mainland Britain and the Republic of Ireland, by transporting such goods through Northern Ireland.