The UK Government has been urged to scrap its proposed tariff schedule and pursue a post-Brexit approach to international trade that acts in the best interests of Scottish food and farming. That call takes on greater urgency following the announcement on plans to suspend Parliament next month, further shifting the prospect of a ‘no deal’ from possible to probable.
In a letter to recently appointed Secretary of State for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss MP, the Union has described the current tariff schedule, published earlier this year, as ‘catastrophic’ and one that ‘severely exposes’ some agricultural sectors, such as cereals, to being undermined by sub-standard goods flooding the UK market.
NFUS has copied the letter to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, and has invited further discussions with him on an arable farm with a view to jointly challenging the UK Government on its stance.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “Scotland’s reputation, built on provenance and high production standards, should be at the heart of the UK Government’s ambition to strike trading arrangements in new export markets.
“Since the outset of the EU exit negotiations, it has been the position of NFU Scotland that the UK Government must establish an approach to international trade in the best interests of Scottish agricultural, food and drink businesses and supports our ambition to double our value to £30 billion by 2030.
“Instead, we are being increasingly undermined by pursuit of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and the prospect of a hugely damaging tariff schedule.
“The planned import tariff and tariff rate quota (TRQ) schedules published in March expose the catastrophic impact that no deal would have on the agricultural sector.
“Whilst the stated intention is that some agricultural products will be deemed sensitive, the crushing reality is that cereals, potatoes, fruit, vegetables and eggs will not have the same level of protection.
“By excluding these sectors, the UK Government is failing to recognise that the impact of a no deal Brexit will be felt severely across every agricultural sector.
“Asymmetrical treatment of the different agricultural sectors severely exposes those with no tariff protection to competition from agricultural goods, produced to lower standards that are potentially illegal in the UK, flooding the UK market tariff-free. In NFU Scotland’s view, this is wholly unacceptable.
“The UK Government must review its approach to tariffs immediately or be prepared to respond to massive market disruption and take corrective actions to ensure that Scottish and other UK farmers are not financially disadvantaged by its tariff approach.
“We want to work closely with Scottish Government to develop and jointly put forward common sense solutions to the import tariff situation and any review carried out by UK Government. As a result, NFUS has invited Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing for further discussions on an arable farm soon.”