Brexit no-deal is worst possible outcome for farming, NFU warns

NFU president Minette Batters believes a no-deal Brexit scenario would threaten livelihoods due to the effects it would have on the trade of agri-food products between Britain and the EU. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
NFU president Minette Batters believes a no-deal Brexit scenario would threaten livelihoods due to the effects it would have on the trade of agri-food products between Britain and the EU. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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A no-deal Brexit scenario is the worst possible outcome for farming and it would pose a serious threat to rural livelihoods, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) warned as it expressed alarm over the details of the Government’s new technical papers.

Organic British agri-food products would not be allowed into the European Union until UK organic certification bodies receive official recognition from the EU Commission, a process which could take as long as nine months, the Whitehall papers reveal.

If the same “cliff edge scenario” was repeated across the wider UK food supply chain, it would not just be disastrous for farm businesses, but for the economy and society at large, the NFU’s president Minette Batters said.

The union continues to call for free and frictionless trade with the EU and now wants further clarity from the Government on what would happen to the trade of all agri-food products if the UK does leave the EU without a deal in place next March.

Ms Batters said: “While these notices are an essential part of Government’s plans for preparing for all outcomes, they serve as a sobering reminder of what is at stake for farmers in the event of a no deal.”

If the forecast for organic goods rings true for the trade of all agri-food products, it could effectively result in a trade embargo on exports to the EU, she warned.

“Not only would this be hugely disruptive but it threatens livelihoods and businesses in the UK.

“A no deal outcome would be the worst possible one for the farming industry,” Ms Batters said.

Last year, 60 per cent of UK food, feed and drink exports were to EU countries and 70 per cent of British imports of the same products were from the EU.

Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said it was encouraging that the Government was making contingency plans in the event of a no-deal as farmers need “clear and comprehensive” guidance to prepare for the possibility.

“All farmers need certainty and do not wish to leave the EU without an agreement firmly in place which is in the best interests of the industry,” he said.

“We are doing all we can within Europe to encourage our equivalent organisations to support a better deal for both UK and EU farmers.”