What would a ‘no deal’ Brexit really mean for NI agriculture?

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The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has responded to farmers’ heightened concerns about the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit on their businesses, writes Richard Halleron.

A spokesperson has told Farming Life that should the UK leave the EU on the 29 March 2019, without there being a withdrawal agreement, that farmers would receive the same level of payments they would have received under Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy until the end of the 2019 scheme year.

The DAERA representative continued: “Therefore, the 2019 scheme year arrangements for Pillar 1 payments will proceed as planned under a no deal scenario.

“At this stage it is not possible to confirm the arrangements for future years but it is the intention of DAERA to keep existing schemes in operation until such times as a future Minister decides otherwise.

“Arrangements for trading of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements will be the same in 2019 as previous years and will include leases and permanent transfers. The price being paid for entitlements transferred is a matter for the transferee and transferor to agree.”

Meanwhile, the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has confirmed that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would have disastrous consequences for food and farming in Northern Ireland.

Union president Ivor Ferguson added: “We are likely to face huge disruption as a result of an effective trade embargo on the export of UK animals and animal based products.

“A number of sectors would face particularly high customs tariffs on exports. For example, the EU tariff would be 65 per cent on beef, 46 per cent on lamb and 27 per cent on chicken.

“The government could also choose to deliver on its commitment to maintain price equilibrium for consumers by lowering the UK’s import tariffs unilaterally to control food price inflation. This would not only apply to the EU but also would result in the UK market being open to imports of food produced outside the EU to standards lower than that produced here by UK farmers. This would have a very significant impact on UK food production.”

Mr Ferguson continued: “In terms of the direct payments to farmers, when we leave the EU on the 29th March the UK will be out of the CAP. The Conservative government has committed to keeping direct payments at the same level in cash terms until 2022, but can develop its own domestic and regional agricultural support policies. While work is already underway on this, it is, however, likely that the current system will remain largely in place for some time.

“However, if we leave the EU with no deal on 29th March practical issues such as high tariffs and an effective trade embargo will have a much more immediate effect causing major disruptions to the supply chain. This would necessitate separate, additional funding for likely off-setting crisis measures.”