No-deal Brexit tariffs 'would hammer' Scottish farming

Industry leaders believe the updated tariff schedule is 'damaging' for Scottish farmers and crofters
Industry leaders believe the updated tariff schedule is 'damaging' for Scottish farmers and crofters

Adopting the no-deal tariff regime if the UK leaves the EU abruptly would 'hammer' Scottish farming, an industry leader has said.

Major concerns have been raised over the newly-released tariff regime to be put in place in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

NFU Scotland has now written to Scottish Secretary of State Alister Jack after repeatedly warning the UK government.

Since March, the farming industry have raised concerns over the proposed temporary tariff regime to be implemented if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The latest schedule, published by the government last week, is largely unchanged.

Farm groups fear it would undermine many sectors of Scottish food and farming to an 'unacceptable level'.

Following its publication, the Scottish Secretary of State contacted NFU Scotland to discuss its concerns and requested further information to jointly take the matter forward.

With the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit getting closer by the day, the union has recently raised the issue in person with the Prime Minister and Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers.

It has also written to the Secretary of State for the Department for International Trade demanding that the government reconsider its position on tariffs.

Accompanying its most recent letter to the Scottish Secretary of State, the union has – at Mr Jack’s request - provided a detailed summary of the impacts that the proposed import tariff and tariff rate quota (trq) schedule would have on livestock, cereals, dairy, eggs, pigs and specialist crops.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said the biggest threat to agriculture from no-deal is the potential for market shocks and market loss.

He said: “A ‘no deal’ exit from the EU would be damaging enough, but a ‘no deal’ exit under the proposed tariff regime would hammer Scottish food and farming.

“To date, the UK government has failed to recognise that asymmetrical treatment of the different agricultural sectors severely exposes those with no tariff protection to competition from agricultural goods, produced to standards that are inequivalent and most probably illegal in the UK, flooding the market tariff-free.

“My dismay is that, despite repeated efforts since March when the updated tariff regime was first published, none of these very real and pressing concerns have been taken account of.”

NFU president Minette Batters recently criticised the government's 'exasperating lack of action' as concerns remain unaddressed on the future of farming.

With 18 days to Brexit, and the aspect of a no-deal still in place, the NFU says numerous industry issues have not been remedied.

Mr McCornick added: “I accept the fact that, in the event of a ‘no deal’, the regime is intended to be a temporary measure that will be in place as the UK transitions to new trading arrangements with the EU and third countries.

“However, to set a low or zero tariff rate on the importation of key agricultural products will bargain away any UK negotiating power and decimate any efforts to strengthen the offering of domestic primary producers in the process,” he said.

NFU Scotland has urged the government to prepare to respond to the 'inevitable' market disruption in the event of a no-deal.

It comes as the Scottish food and farming industry strives to double its size to £30bn.

However, Mr McCornick said a no-deal Brexit and the adopting of the tariff regime would place this ambition in 'jeopardy'.