Brexit ‘too hard’ and UK Gov’s trade deals ‘naive’ says Welsh farming union boss
The UK Government’s Brexit trade deals are “naive” because they pitch Welsh farmers directly against countries with lower standards, the President of the Farmers’ Union of Wales has said.
Glyn Roberts said that the Brexit they had been given was “far harder” than had been lobbied for and that “unjustified restrictions” were placing Welsh farmers which placed them “at a severe competitive disadvantage” with farmers from other countries.
Addressing members as part of an end of year review, he also said that non-tariff barriers created by Brexit were a “major problem for exporters” of meat.
“Such concerns are particularly pertinent in an era when the UK Government is proactively seeking to sign trade deals with countries with production standards which fall well short of those already required of Welsh food producers,” he said.
“And while the aspiration that further raising standards will provide our producers with a competitive advantage in high-end markets is understandable, it is also naive given what the data tells us – price continues to be the main motivation when consumers make their food choices.”
He added that both Brexit and Covid-19 had highlighted the “fragility of global food supply chains” and the importance of a strong farming sector for Wales.
“The materialisation of a far harder form of Brexit than had been promised by those who lobbied for our departure from the EU has restricted access to our main export markets on the continent in ways which are only beginning to be felt,” he said.
“Meanwhile, UK Government cuts to Welsh rural funding – in direct contradiction to promises made repeatedly by those who advocated Brexit – have added to the pressures on Welsh agriculture, the rural economy and Welsh Government.”
He also took aim at the Welsh Government, saying that some of their responses to the challenges faced by the industry in 2021 had been “bewildering and counterintuitive” and had “drastically increasing costs and restrictions”.
Glyn Roberts said that climate change and protecting the environment “must be at the core of policy development for the Welsh Government and Senedd”.
“But such aspirations must be tempered by the knowledge that sweeping changes that undermine our family farms and food production will merely shift production to countries with lower animal welfare standards and higher global and environmental footprints,” he added.