- The announcement of the 12-month no-deal tariff schedule is a cause of concern for businesses
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Leaders within the food and farming industries have expressed concern over the recent announcement from the government of the no-deal tariff schedule so close to the Brexit deadline of 29th March. The future of Britain is still uncertain and a no-deal Brexit a stronger possibility after Theresa May’s latest exit proposal was rejected by MPs. It’s been reported that tariffs would temporarily be cut to zero on most imports to the UK, but prices of imports in certain sectors would rise.
Responding to the news, NFU President Minette Batters said: “Although we are pleased to see that the government has listened to our concerns and elected to treat many agricultural sectors sensitively, which may support farmers who are already facing disastrous disruption from no-deal, it is enormously worrying that some sectors will not have this protection – noticeably eggs, cereals, fruit and vegetables.
“Even those sectors that are treated sensitively will, in most instances, see worrying and large reductions in the tariff rates currently charged on non-EU imports. Furthermore, the approach taken by the government to lump products under the same high-level tariff code, for example whole carcases and high value cuts of fresh beef, means there is a high chance of market distortion for many sectors who are deemed to have been treated sensitively.
“We recognise the importance of ensuring food prices for consumers do not rise in a no-deal Brexit but we are deeply concerned that the approach to tariffs published will mean a greater reliance on food produced overseas. This would not necessarily lead to cheaper food for consumers but would mean we export and increase the environmental impact of our food production while losing control of the high standards of animal welfare to which that food is produced. In a no-deal scenario the government must act immediately to revise these tariffs and quotas should this happen.
“But more importantly, the publication of this tariff is another example of how British farming will be damaged by a no-deal Brexit. No-deal must be taken off the table and a workable solution identified by MPs and government as a matter of urgency that takes us into an orderly Brexit.”
FDF chief executive Ian Wright CBE also said: “This new system is confusing and complex. It includes some zero tariffs, some new tariffs and some quotas. Some foodstuffs qualify for partial protection and some not for any protection at all; with little logic to explain the difference. New tariffs will apply to some foods that are currently imported tariff-free, yet no tariffs will be applied to goods that cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is likely to result in massive trade distortions. In a world where it is costly and complex to export finished goods to the EU, and costly and complex to import key ingredients, many food and drink manufacturers who trade with the EU will surely question whether the UK is the right place for them to be.”