Failure to reach Brexit deal would be ‘catastrophic’, warn Welsh farmers

Picture by Phil Dolby (CC BY 2.0)

The failure to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU would be “catastrophic”, Welsh farmers have warned.

The Famers’ Union of Wales said a no deal Brexit should be “avoided at all costs” and that “no responsible UK government” would allow it to happen.

As it stands, the UK is currently teetering on the edge of being plunged into no deal Brexit because Boris Johnson has failed to reach an agreement with EU negotiators.

The UK government had said it would “go the extra mile” to try to get a deal, after extending the talks, but added that EU remained “very far apart” on a number of issues.

Currently 73 per cent of all Welsh food and drink exports are destined for the EU, which is the largest single market in the world, and a no deal Brexit would mean many of these products would face substantial tariffs, including up to 40 per cent on lamb.

Wales’ food and drink supply chain plays employs more than 240,000 people in the Welsh economy and has a combined turnover of more than £22 billion.

This includes the majority of exports of red meat and dairy products worth an estimated £320 million to Wales.

Over a third of sheep meat produced in Wales is exported annually and, of this, more than 90 per cent is exported to the European Union.

 

‘Major challenges’

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Even if there is a trade deal with the EU, industries are facing major challenges from non-tariff barriers at borders, with additional costs for agricultural exports estimated to be up to 10 per cent, not to mention major disruptions and practical obstacles to the flow of goods.

“These already worrying impacts will increase manyfold if we fail to reach a trade agreement, in particular as a result of the tariffs that will be charged on our exports.

“The viability and very survival of businesses and the supply chains and jobs they support depends on a deal being struck and talk of an ‘Australia-style deal’ is just a euphemism for a damaging no-deal.”

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told BBC Question Time: “Be careful what you wish for. Australia’s relationship with the EU is not one from a trade point of view that I think Britain would want, frankly.

“We obviously are dealing with WTO terms. And there are really some very large barriers to Australian trade with Europe which we’re seeking to address as we negotiate a free trade agreement with Europe.

“But Australians would not regard our trade relationship with Europe as being a satisfactory one.”

Mr Roberts added: “We have said since the referendum that no responsible UK government would allow the UK to leave the EU without a trade deal.

“For us to leave the biggest and richest single market in the world without a deal, at a time when jobs, lives and the economy continue to be ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, would be a massive and reckless act of self harm.”

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