‘Brexit or no Brexit; deal or no deal, we have 66 million mouths to feed’

NFU president Minette Batters has warned that leaving the EU without a deal could leave the country reliant on lower quality imports in order to feed its 66 million inhabitants.

The National Farmers’ Union president was addressing delegates at the Semex dairy conference in Glasgow on Monday.

In her speech, she covered issues such as no-deal Brexit, the Agriculture Bill, the need to uphold UK food standards and the importance of food production.

Mrs. Batters said: “There has never been a more important time to talk about homegrown food.

“I want to broaden the conversations around food – it is more affordable, diverse, traceable and available than ever before, but around the world, the landscape for food is changing and we face significant challenges in sustaining ourselves in the future.

For example, a no-deal Brexit could lead to an immediate reliance on overseas imports, produced to lower standards, while many UK farms struggle to survive.

“Farmers want clarity on what the future trading relationship with Europe will be. We have argued for free and frictionless trade with the EU to continue, with no tariffs or non-tariff barriers.”

EU tariffs applied to exports

The EU has confirmed that in the event of a no-deal exit, it will apply its existing tariffs to imports coming from the UK. WTO rules mean it could do no less.

A list of all of the tariffs the EU would apply to the UK is set out in the EU’s Common Customs Tariff (CCT) schedule.

Using cheddar as an example: In 2017, the UK exported 364,024t of cheddar to the EU tariff-free. In the event of no-deal, the UK would face EU most-favoured nation tariffs on our exports.

The tariff on cheddar is currently €1,671/t. This tariff would cost UK cheese producers the equivalent of 14p/L.

Batters also highlighted the direction added: “Our focus will also be to continue to engage with MPs to ensure the new Agriculture Bill delivers for British farmers.

“It’s vital that it establishes a framework that supports farmers as food producers and custodians of the countryside.

“We wish to see the Government use the provisions available within the Bill to deliver regulated contract terms for dairy farmers.

“This would help rebalance the risk within the supply chain and place dairy farmers in a strong position to develop professional sustainable relationships with their buyers to be commercially focused, innovative and competitive.

“British dairy farmers deliver high-quality, traceable and affordable products that the British public expect and support.

“Whatever happens – Brexit or no Brexit; deal or no deal – we have 66 million mouths to feed and British dairy farmers will continue doing what they do best – producing safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”