UK farmers 'betrayed' by government's Brexit tariff plans that risk flooding UK with lower-quality imported food

British goods face tariffs of up to 60 per cent while many imports won't be charged any under latest Tory plans

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 08 October 2019 16:31
Labour MP Barry Sheerman: 'The food and farming sector is terrified about the impact of leaving the EU'

The government has “betrayed” UK farmers with its no-deal Brexit tariff plans, which risk flooding the country with cheap food produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards, the farming industry trade body has said.

Under new plans the vast majority of goods entering the UK will be tariff-free, a move the government hopes will help mitigate the negative effects of disruption.

But business groups savaged the plans.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said British goods will face tariffs on exports to the EU of up to 60 per cent while food travelling the other way will be charged nothing in many cases.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “Without the maintenance of tariff protections, we are in danger of opening up the UK to imported food which would be illegal to be produced here, produced at a lower cost because it may fail to meet the environmental and animal welfare standards which are legally required of our own farmers - flooding our market and resulting in unsustainable price falls.

“Not only could this be terrible news for farmers, whose very businesses will be under threat, but also for consumers who enjoy the high-quality and affordable British food they produce.”

Ms Batters added: “Farmers are going to feel betrayed by this government's failure to act now in making sure that all that can be done is being done to help mitigate the damaging effects of a no-deal Brexit.”

The government said honey from New Zealand will see its tariff fall from 17% to zero, grapes from Brazil will reduce from around 15% to zero and other products, such as tennis rackets and wines, will no longer face a tariff.

The regime would apply for up to 12 months while a full consultation on a permanent approach to tariffs is undertaken from January, as part of work to develop the UK's independent trade policy.

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell warned the Commons on Tuesday of an “avalanche” of paperwork for firms after trade ties with Europe are severed by no-deal.

The government’s own assessment shows that its no-deal Brexit policy will introduce “significant ongoing administrative costs” of around £15bn a year, Mr McDonnell said.

“This doesn’t even include the costs of complying with new VAT procedures, which will hit our vital service companies," he added. “All this to pursue the hardest possible Tory no-deal Brexit. We have heard the prime minister’s previous crude dismissal of British business, now we are seeing his words become government policy.”

Hauliers too were unhappy with the government’s latest plans, which offered few concessions from provisional proposals unveiled in March.

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The Department for International Trade cut its planned tariff on lorries imported into the UK from 22 per cent to 10 per cent but the Road Haulage Association said this would cause major damage to the industry.

Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The original proposal of a 22 per cent tariff on HGVs coming in from the EU was unbelievable. A 10 per cent tariff will still be crippling and will severely damage the lives and livelihoods of those responsible for operating the very industry that keeps the UK fit to live in.”

Trade Policy Minister Conor Burns said: “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October and we are working with businesses to ensure the UK is ready to trade from day one. Our temporary tariff regime will support the UK economy as a whole, helping British businesses to trade and opening up opportunities for business to import the best goods from around the world at the best prices for British consumers.

He added that "British business is in a strong position to compete in an open, free-trading environment.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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