Hard Brexit ‘would spell disaster for many farms’

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

New trade tariffs for British produce post-Brexit could spell disaster for many farms, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said.

The union’s chief economics and international affairs adviser Dr Andrew Francis sounded the warning following claims by former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg that UK farming “will be particularly badly hit by tariffs”.

In a Party paper to explain the potential challenges facing the UK’s food and drink industry after Brexit, Mr Clegg said a “hard Brexit”; by which the UK splits from the EU’s single market and its customs union and fails to negotiate a free trade agreement with Brussels, would mean World Tarde Organisation rules apply. This, he said, would set import and export tariffs for milk at 47 per cent, cheese 40 per cent, beef 59 per cent, lamb 40 per cent, unmilled wheat 40 per cent and fruit and vegetables around 10 per cent.

The Sheffield Hallam MP wrote: “Brexit could have far-reaching negative effects on the British food and farming industries.”

Extra import levies and customs checks would also contribute to food manufacturers raising food prices, he said.

Responding to the report, the NFU’s Dr Francis said: “Continued access to the EU single market should not be hindered by imposed tariffs or non-tariff barriers... it would be beneficial to the food and drink sector for the UK-EU trading relationship to continue.

“Many farmers are already struggling to meet the costs of production within an environment of low prices. Should we leave the single market, the implications of trade tariffs could potentially be disastrous for many farm businesses.”