Unions urge customs arrangement with EU to allow flow of beef and lamb exports

The farming unions have appealed to the government to recognise the sensitive nature of UK beef and lamb
The farming unions have appealed to the government to recognise the sensitive nature of UK beef and lamb

Farming unions have appealed to the government to adopt a customs arrangement with the EU that allows beef and lamb to be exported to established markets.

Without an arrangement there will likely be an economic impact that will damage livestock producers in the UK, they warned.

Livestock representatives from the UK farming unions attended a meeting in Edinburgh last week, hosted by NFU Scotland.

Top of the agenda was the on-going uncertainty over the UK government’s policy for post-Brexit trade.

Farmer representatives from NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) were clear that the UK government must adopt a trade policy which prioritises tariff free, frictionless access to the European marketplace.

At the meeting, the four organisations agreed that there were concerning media reports over the possibility of the UK market being opened up to low standard imports from outside of Europe, should the government not recognise the sensitive nature of beef and lamb.

Indeed, a report released last year warns of the potential increase in cheaper, lower standard food imports to the UK which could put British farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

And a sector by sector post-Brexit analysis by the NFU has identified the risk of low standard imports as the greatest trade threat to certain sectors.

Following the meeting, NFU Livestock Board Chairman, Richard Findlay explained that if a customs arrangement isn't prioritised then there's likely to be an economic impact, damaging livestock producers in the UK.

“It’s vital at this stage in the Brexit process that the UK government adopts a form of customs arrangement that allows our beef and lamb to be exported to established markets in continental Europe,” Mr Findlay said.

'Sensitive nature'

NFU Scotland Livestock Committee Chairman, Charlie Adam appealed to the government to ensure future trade deals with countries outside of the EU meet high standards.

He said any future trade deals must be negotiated on the basis that all imported produce meet UK and EU standards of production, traceability and environmental protection.

He said: “It is therefore essential that the UK government recognise the sensitive nature of beef and lamb.

“Additionally, for our future trade with the EU, the UK government must adopt an approach which avoids any barriers to trade in to the European market.”

The unions said the government must recognise and take action to protect lamb and beef production in developing its post-Brexit trade policy.

NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman, Wyn Evans, said stability is key, and the trading agreement agreed with Europe is fundamental to achieving livestock prices that will result in profitable businesses that can invest and face the future with confidence.

“A customs agreement would achieve that certainty, particularly important for our lamb sector which is so dependent on the European market,” Mr Evans said.

The farming unions highlighted the need to secure new markets outside of Europe, which can help to address carcase balance in the livestock sector.

UFU Deputy President, David Brown, said there are global opportunities to market high quality red meat produced from farms in the UK.

“It is important that these are fully capitalised upon to boost returns to farmers and add value to the industry,” Mr Brown added.