Farming groups have welcomed the news that the government will maintain tariffs on agriculture products, but warn that food imports must be produced to the same standards required of UK farmers.
The government this week announced its new MFN tariff regime, the UK Global Tariff, which replaces the EU’s Common External Tariff on 1st January 2021, at the end of the transition period.
It promises to support the economy by making it easier and cheaper for businesses to import goods from overseas, as well as scrapping red tape and other unnecessary barriers to trade, reducing cost pressures and backing UK industries to compete on a global level.
Tariffs will be maintained on agricultural products such as lamb, beef and poultry.
Commenting on the news in a joint statement, the four UK farming unions said: “We are pleased the government has listened and maintained many of the safeguards currently in place for UK farmers under its new UK Global Tariff schedule. This is particularly important in fulfilling the UK government’s commitment not to undermine our high food and farming standards.
“It is worth remembering, however, that these tariffs are likely to be negotiated away as part of any trade deals that will be struck in the coming months, and so those deals must include strong provisions ensuring food imports are produced to the same standards required of our own farmers. Not only will this help the government fulfil its vision of a sustainable and profitable UK farming sector but will also meet public demand that our standards are not undermined in future trade policy.”
While the overall position seems to support UK farmers, the unions said they would need to examine and fully consider all the implications of the simplifications involved.
“For instance, it is still likely that the changes will lead to increased competition for some domestically produced commodities and we will need to understand the precise nature and impact of that.
“We are also urging the government to provide clarity around its ability to adjust the tariffs announced today, in particular in the event that there is no negotiated agreement with the EU on a future relationship by the end of the year.”
CLA president Mark Bridgeman expressed similar sentiments: “We welcome the news that the UK Government is maintaining tariffs on agriculture products such as lamb, beef and poultry which will protect Britain’s farmers.
“We also support new free trade deals which could grow the economy and boost UK trade. We should have confidence in our market and standards in these negotiations.
“However, it is vital that equivalent import standards are met in order to prevent UK producers being undercut by products of lower environmental or animal welfare standards. This needs to be kept under review as FTA continue to be negotiated.”