Northern Ireland’s beef, sheep and hill farming sectors have joined with red meat processors to warn that ‘No Deal’ would be a disastrous outcome from the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
With time tight and, to date, no middle ground between London and Brussels the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) say they have deep concerns about the potential impact of the UK leaving the EU next March with no trade deal in place.
Sam Chesney, UFU beef and lamb Chairman said: “We see this as a very risky outcome. We would face up to 60 per cent tariffs on exports and unfair competition in the UK market from lower standard meat imported from outside Europe.”
He added that two independent reports from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) had highlighted the dangerous vulnerability of the beef and sheep sector to a no deal result.
John Kennedy, UFU hill farming Chairman, warned that this cliff-edge scenario would mean the effective closure of export markets.
“The AFBI report in particular underlined the negative impact of losing the French lamb market, if we default to a WTO relationship with the EU. There must also be a settlement that protects the UK from being flooded with cheap food of dubious quality.”
Conall Donnelly of NIMEA said uncertainty is a growing concern for processors as well as farmers.
He added: “It is hard to see any outcome that could be worse than no deal. While we hope this will not happen no one can be sure. One problem already is uncertainty and brinkmanship. Long before we get to March 29, this is already a trade barrier with the potential to make suppliers and customers hedge against the risk of a hard Brexit.”
Sam Chesney added that the challenge was not only to get a good deal, but to ensure that as the negotiations intensify uncertainty does not cause damage.
“A no deal outcome would distort supply chains and create significant risks for farm businesses, whether they are primary beef and sheep producers in the hills or lowland finishers,” he added.
John Kennedy said that in the run up to the crunch EU heads of state October summit both Brussels and London must recognise the impact failure to agree a deal would have on farming families.
“Politicians need to focus on finding solutions, rather than ramping up the rhetoric which only feeds uncertainty,” he said.
Commenting on the issue A DAERA spokesperson said that since negotiations began, the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) has engaged with the UK Government including the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales in relation to European Union Exit issues, adding: “NICS Departments have undertaken a range of activities to help inform, analyse and understand the impacts and implications of the UK’s exit from the EU, for their specific policy areas.
“Consideration is being given to a range of possible outcome scenarios and the impact these could potentially have on policies and responsibilities.”