UFU disillusioned by revised UK import tariff schedule
Tuesday, 8 October, 2019
The Ulster Farmers’ Union is disillusioned by Government’s revised UK import tariff schedule which includes a zero percent tariff on certain agriculture goods, opening opportunity for lower standard imports to enter the UK if we leave the EU without a deal.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said, “The lack of changes to the UK’s temporary tariff schedule originally released in March, means we could lose some of our preferential access to some of our key export markets. At the same time, we have the possibility of importing food produced to lower standards regarding animal welfare and environment, which would be illegal in the UK. Not only does this put our farmers at risk, but also our consumers.
“The UK presently imports around 40% of its food requirements with approximately 70% of this currently imported duty free from the rest of the EU. We accept the importance of ensuring food prices remain stable for consumers in a no-deal situation, however, sacrificing the farming industry and increasing reliance on imports is not the way to do it. Additionally, these tariff proposals will not necessarily guarantee cheaper food.”
The UK is a world-class producer of agri-food. However, there must be a level playing field so that local produce can compete on the market.
“A combination of losing access to key trading partners while opening up our markets would be potentially disastrous. How long could farmers survive with no meaningful protection and new export barriers?
“Farming families are once again left in fear of what could happen to their businesses if a no-deal Brexit occurs. We have constantly repeated that a no-deal outcome would be catastrophic for Northern Ireland farming having an immediate and profound impact on farming families, causing major disruptions to the supply chain, crippling the industry and rendering our farmers uncompetitive. This is why we have called for reciprocal tariffs. Whatever the EU applies, the UK should apply in return," says Mr Ferguson.
In August, the UFU wrote to Prime Minster Boris Johnson on this issue and also the application of differential import tariff arrangements within the UK, in terms of the imports from Republic of Ireland to either Northern Ireland or Great Britain.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Prime Minister did not take our concerns regarding imports to NI on board. Farmers are the bedrock of the agriculture industry and everything must be done to ensure the future viability of Northern Ireland’s family-run farm businesses. If we can get trade policy right, it can protect our standards, allow companies to continue trading and also protect the consumer.
“The UFU will continue to lobby Government so that a no-deal Brexit is avoided and secure a deal which allows trade between NI and GB, as well as NI and the ROI, to continue with minimal disruption. While also enabling as frictionless as possible trade with the rest of the EU,” said the UFU president.