FARMERS FOR Action has warned that the EU is now "racing the UK" to secure free trade deals around the world.

The pressure group's Northern Irish organiser, William Taylor, accused the EU of taking advantage of the UK's current situation – not yet free to negotiate any outside trade deals whilst still a member of the Single Market – to speed up its own talks, such as the negotiations with the Mercosur countries.

European Commission DG Agri unit head for African, Caribbean and Pacific relations, Willi Schulz-Greve, was at Balmoral Show to answer farmers' questions, and Mr Taylor took him to task over long-distance 'food swap' deals that seemed at odds with commitments to cut carbon emissions.

He used the example of lamb, where the UK is self-sufficient yet exports 35% and re-imports 35%, as he put it "purely for corporate gain, yet absolutely no benefit to farmers or consumers in either country".

"We have UK ships leaving for France and North Africa with lamb cargoes meeting New Zealand ships inbound to the UK. This is turbo-charging climate change and clearly either the UK’s or the EU’s free trade deals present and future are nonsense or their climate change policy and agreements are nonsense – the two can never sit together legally or from a commonsense point of view."