Livestock sector vulnerable to Brexit ‘No Deal’, says UK farming unions

Friday, 17 August, 2018

Livestock representatives from the Ulster Farmers’ Union, NFU Scotland and NFU Cymru say the prospect of the UK leaving the EU next March with no trade deal in place is worrying and would have serious implications for the UK’s beef and sheep sectors.

The comments were made following a recent meeting in Belfast. Discussions focused on the possibility of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit outcome and the UK’s future agricultural policy.

UFU beef and lamb chairman, Sam Chesney, said, “We recognise that negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU is no easy task, however, March 2019 is fast approaching. The Government must ensure that there are measures in place to allow tariff free and frictionless access to export markets in the EU. This is vital to survival of the livestock sector in Northern Ireland. A ‘no deal’ outcome is very risky – we would face up to 60 per cent tariffs on exports and could result in unfair competition in the UK market from lower standard meat imported from outside of Europe. It would put the livestock sector in serious jeopardy.”

Mr Wyn Evans an upland farmer from Mid Wales and Chairman of the NFU Cymru Livestock Board said, “Sheep production is critical to the rural economy of Wales and brings with it clear environmental benefits. 

“The Government in its future trade talks with the EU must ensure that we have measures in place that continue to allow tariff free and unfettered access to export markets in Europe. This is vital to maintaining the already tight margins in this sector.

“We are extremely concerned about the potential devastating consequences a no deal scenario and associated trade export tariffs could bring on the sector. The whole of the rural economy would be affected and the knock on effect lower production levels would have on the landscape and our environment. A critical level of supply of high quality PGI status Welsh lambs is essential to keep a viable processing sector in Wales.”

NFU Scotland Livestock Committee Vice Chairman Jimmy Ireland said, “A no deal Brexit could have unthinkable consequences on Scottish farms and crofts. The UK currently exports more than £380 million worth of lamb and sheepmeat, with the vast majority being exported to European markets. Any imposition of barriers to trade as a result of Brexit will impact thousands of sheep and cattle farming businesses across Scotland and the UK.

“We also need to see the UK Government secure future protection of our food names, such as Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI. These names are synonymous with quality and we need to see them protected from imitation, both in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“Future support for the food and farming sector must deliver on-farm profitability that ensures there is a critical mass of cattle and sheep to drive productivity across the supply chain.”

The UK unions are committed to working together to highlight this to decision makers over the summer and autumn as the UK enters a critical period in the Brexit negotiations.