Environment secretary Michael Gove has announced the UK will apply rate tariffs on food imports post-Brexit – something campaigners fear will lead to exporting farmers ‘facing extinction’.
The president of the National Farmers’ Union has said it is ‘absolutely shocking’ that it was still not clear to farmers what trade conditions they would be operating in or what Britain’s future agricultural policy will look like after Brexit.
Minette Batters said Brexit was the ‘stuff of nightmares’ for British farmers in her conference speech.
‘I make no apology for saying that leaving the EU without a deal would be a catastrophe for British farming.’
Batters said the high tariffs for exporting to Europe could effectively mean there is no market for four-and-a-half million lambs, decimating farms from the uplands and the Welsh mountains to the lowlands.
And ships are setting sail from Britain with cargo including food exports that will arrive in their destinations after March 29, when the UK is set to leave the bloc.
Farmers need to make a decision now on whether to load British produce on to ships which will set sail on February 28, she said.
Without a deal with the EU, there would be a failure to roll over many of the trade deals currently held with other countries outside the bloc.
Batters questioned whether there would be a deal in place that allows the goods to be accepted, and, if not, what would happen to that British produce.
‘With 900 hours to go, it’s unacceptable for government to leave British businesses having to take this gamble.’
She said the issue of maintaining food standards ‘is critical’ and called for a high-level commission to ensure farmers are not undercut and that imported food meets the same standards as British produce after Brexit.
Best for Britain supporter Tim Farron MP said: ‘Michael Gove has just let the cat out of the bag. It’s clear that, with Brexit fast-approaching, the myriad of fanciful promises made to sectors like farming are disappearing into thin air.
‘Farmers now face being put out of business by Brexit. These revelations are like a slap in the face.’