It could take the UK at least six months to be formally approved by the EU as an exporter, creating a “cliff edge scenario” for an industry which saw £3.15bn of animal and animal products exported to the EU last year.
Minette Batters, the NFU’s president, said: “These technical notices confirm in black and white what we already knew: a no deal scenario would be catastrophic for British agriculture.
“A scenario where farmers face an immediate trade embargo for many of their products would have devastating effects, and would severely threaten livelihoods and businesses.
“While these notices are an essential part of Government planning, it is crucial that the Government does as much as possible to avoid disruption for farm businesses in all outcomes. We urge everyone in the negotiations to work to achieve a deal that delivers free and frictionless trade between the UK and the EU.”
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the sheep sector would face “serious implications”, warned Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, who said any period where the UK’s trade with the EU might be paused, and the uncertainty around not knowing when it might return, would be damaging to the sheep sector.
Up to 40 per cent of British sheepmeat is exported with 96 per cent of those exports sold into the EU.
Mr Stocker said: “This demand will not be replaced quickly by new markets and we would be looking to the Government to work closely with us to put in place actions to underpin our market.
“Alarmingly, there is even a suggestion that the UK will allow imports to continue smoothly, while we accept a potential delay in getting approval to export. That may help some industries, but it won’t help sheep farmers, who will simply see oversupplies in the UK exacerbated.”
In a no-deal scenario, the EU would ask the UK to apply to be listed as a ‘third country’. Without listed status no exports to the EU could take place. In its technical notes, the Governments says it is confident the UK meets the animal health requirements to secure a listing, as other countries such as Australia and New Zealand have done so.