The Ulster Farmers’ Union is calling on the UK government to commit to applying reciprocal tariffs for agricultural goods if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31st October.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, says in order to safe-guard food production in a no-deal situation the UK government must treat all agriculture commodities as sensitive.
“If the EU applies tariffs, the UK should reciprocate at the same level and trade can be managed through the introduction of tariff-rate quotas (TQRs) where there is a domestic producer interest. However, even with reciprocal tariffs the damage a no-deal Brexit will do to our industry is catastrophic,” he said.
Mr Ferguson says the UFU’s position on no-deal remains unchanged.
“The UK’s departure from the EU must be orderly. A no-deal situation is the worst possible outcome for Northern Ireland’s farming families and will create disastrous consequences. Steep export tariffs, additional checks and regulations, combined with a proposed zero per cent tariff on agricultural goods from ROI to NI, will result in significant disruption and pose a logistical nightmare for farm businesses,” he said.
Northern Ireland will be one of the worst hit regions when it comes to a no-deal Brexit and the UFU says that if it happens the NI agriculture industry will need significant support to mitigate the damage.
“If we end up in a no-deal scenario, our members across all our policy committees have said there must be an immediate amendment to the proposed UK no-deal tariff structure. We must mirror existing EU tariff levels in order to ensure the viability of primary producers. It cannot be overstated how important agri-food is to the Northern Ireland economy. It is NI’s largest manufacturer and leading exporter, turning over nearly £5 billion every year and employing over 90,000 people. Farmers are the industry’s bedrock and everything must be done to ensure the future viability of family-run farm businesses,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU says if the proposed zero per cent tariff on agricultural goods coming from ROI into NI goes ahead, combined with the differential treatment between ROI and GB, where tariffs will apply, it will be disastrous for farmers and growers in NI.
Mr Ferguson said: “The no-deal tariff plans will drive down farm gate prices and open a door to illegal trade. Calling to the question the integrity of the NI agri-food industry and ultimately the UK agri-food industry as a whole. NI farmers and growers will be hit again as the dramatically reduced UK tariffs result in a flood of products from across the globe. Many of which will be produced at a lower cost, effectively making NI farmers uncompetitive and pricing us out of the market.”
The UFU continues to lobby politicians at Westminster and has used recent meetings with high level officials to outline the dangers of a no-deal to Northern Ireland’s agriculture industry.