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EFRA calls on Government to provide greater clarity for UK horticulture

18 February 2018

FPC welcomes the publication by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee  of its report  Brexit: Trade in Food.

The report focuses on the impact on different agri-food sectors of the UK having to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in the event of no deal being reached between the UK and EU. This is particularly pertinent given the UK’s simultaneous withdrawal from the Common Agricultural Policy (the impact of which will be specifically considered by the Committee at a later date).

The report concludes:

  • That the EU is the UK’s most significant trading partner and there is no guarantee that a free trade agreement will be reached.
  • WTO tariffs could possibly lead to higher costs for consumers but could lead to beneficial import displacement. A liberalisation of barriers could possibly lead to cheaper imports, produced to lower welfare standards, and damage British producers.
  • The agricultural industry needs clarity on the Government’s long-term vision, as reverting to WTO tariffs will have a significant impact on agriculture, given that tariffs are higher for agricultural products than for other goods and services.
  • Perishable agricultural products are more at risk from lengthy customs procedures and poor IT systems.
  • When setting UK tariffs at the WTO, Government should understand that removing tariffs ‘could put many UK farmers out of business and render the UK dependent on imported food.’

The Committee has recommended that the Government:

  • Should consider creating a fund to support the UK’s agricultural sector as it adapts to the post-Brexit environment.
  • Must set out how it will make sure that IT systems and infrastructure are in place for the import and export of agricultural produce so that businesses can continue to trade smoothly with Europe and the rest of the world.
  • Should begin to develop relationships at a political level with potential new trading partners.
  • Should publish a sector-by-sector analysis of the impact of Brexit before the publication of the Agriculture Bill, and publish the Bill as soon as possible.
  • Should ensure that any new agreements are not to the detriment of the UK’s high animal welfare, environmental, or food standards.
  • Should make clear how it will deal with potential regulatory divergence with the EU, and ensure that protected geographical indicators are retained in a similar form after the UK leaves the EU.

Neil Parish, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “Sixty percent of the UK’s agricultural exports and 70% of its imports are from the EU. In order to safeguard the livelihoods of UK farmers and guarantee domestic food security post-Brexit, it is vital that the Government articulates its vision for protecting both. The first step in this process is creating an analysis of each farming sector before bringing the Agriculture Bill before Parliament.

“UK agriculture will need to adapt to the changed trading circumstances following Brexit, so the Government should consider putting funding in place to enable farmers to do so.

“It is crucial that the Government takes positive political action towards new trading relationships as a matter of priority.

“We should under no circumstances compromise on our world-renowned animal welfare, environmental, and food standards. Brexit should be an opportunity to improve, not undermine, our global reputation for quality.”

FPC gave evidence to the Committee and we welcome the Committee’s call for greater clarity from the Government regarding the future for the UK fresh produce industry.

Full recommendations and conclusions can be read here.


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