ThE FUW has welcomed the revelation by Minister George Eustice that plans were afoot to help compensate the sheep sector if a no-deal Brexit led to a collapse in prices, as is anticipated.
The comments came during a UK Brexit Livestock Group meeting with the Minister in mid-February, during which Mr Eustice also indicated that, in a no-deal Brexit scenario, tariffs and Tariff Rate Quotas on agricultural imports should be introduced in a manner aimed at protecting the sectors most vulnerable to Brexit.
Speaking shortly before a meeting with EU officials in Brussels to discuss Brexit implications, FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “During the meeting with Mr Eustice, the FUW emphasised the fact that Wales has 30 per cent of the UK’s sheep population, and that Wales’ allocation from any compensation budget should reflect this.
“Given that the livestock, and in particular the sheep industry, is the most vulnerable under almost all the Brexit scenarios possible, Wales is extremely vulnerable, so we need to ensure tariffs and Tariff Rate Quotas are set at levels which protect Welsh farmers against cheap imports and oversupplies which would further depress our markets.”
Mr Roberts said that at an earlier meeting with Welsh Government to discuss contingency plans for the sector, it had been noted that a no-deal Brexit would lead to average EU import tariffs on Welsh lamb of around 50 per cent – a cost likely to be passed back to the producer through a significant cut in farmgate prices.
“Other products exported from Wales to the EU have similarly high tariffs, so there is a concern across the board, but because a third of our lamb is exported to the EU, the risk that high tariffs and other trade obstacles will lead to over-supply on the home market, and therefore a crash in prices, is acute.
“As such, we need tariffs and quotas on imports that give the required protection to all our industries, and in the worst case scenario of a no-deal Brexit we expect the UK Government and Parliament to provide the protection our farming and food industry needs.”
With the publication of draft legislation covering tariffs iminent, Mr Roberts said that the FUW would be monitoring the situation closely and lobbying Parliament to make any necessary amendments to benefit Welsh farmers.
Article 50 still best option indications given by Mr Eustice regarding contingency plans and tariffs were very welcome, as were the Welsh Government’s response to the FUW’s calls for the creation of a contingency stakeholder group, the only sure way of nullifying the risk of a no-deal Brexit and take back control of the Brexit process was for the UK Government to
unilaterally revoke Article 50.
“The agricultural sector is just one of scores that are involved with governments in drawing up emergency plans for an extreme event in just under a month’s time, and the police and army are also involved in contingency planning for civil unrest and other such eventualities.
“These are situations no responsible government should ever lead a country into, and the most sensible way of taking control over the process is to revoke Article 50 with a view to submitting it once we have a coherent plan that has broad political support.”
Negotiating an agreement with the EU’s remaining 27 member states to extend the Article 50 period by weeks or months could weaken the UK’s position and merely lead to the UK limping on until the next political crisis and standoff.