AS THE Scottish Farmer went to press, a 'no-deal' Brexit was looking much more likely, following yet another House of Commons defeat for PM Theresa May's hard-fought but unpopular exit deal.

That development prompted the Government to release more detail of how it would cope with a 'no-deal' scenario – including what tariffs it would apply to foodstuff imports. This revealed some trade protection for the beef, lamb and poultrymeat sectors, but a potential free-for-all for cereals, fruit, vegetables and eggs.

Warning of a farming 'catastrophe', NFU Scotland noted that import tariffs were only half the equation, as the UK's exports to the EU would also be subject to a much less friendly tariff regime. .

Union president Andrew McCornick has since written to every Scottish MP urging them to support Scottish farmers and crofters by taking a ‘no deal’ off the table once and for all and highlighting the damage that could be levied on the sector if this outcome should ever come to pass.

Mr McCornick said: “The ‘no-deal’ tariff schedule unveiled today undermines the food security of the UK. It is wholly unacceptable that, in the event of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, the Government intends to treat EU and non-EU products being imported to the UK differently to the way that they will treat our own produce. Why should our exporters face tariffs when the UK Government is planning to let a lot of produce in tariff free?

“Exports and Imports should be treated in the same way and all agricultural products whether meat, dairy, cereals, fruit, vegetables and eggs should be treated in the same manner by the UK Government and given the same level of protection," he said. “Farming is highly integrated and what has a negative impact on one sector will ripple through the entire industry. In a no-deal scenario, the government must reconsider its approach to tariffs and how it ensures that this country will be able to produce its own food."

The National Sheep Association welcomed the proposed tariff on sheepmeat imports, but warned that 'no deal' would still result in far higher volumes of lamb coming onto the UK market than it has historically allowed from countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

“While the recognition of our vulnerability by the Government must be welcomed, we are still facing the same issue," said the NSA's Phil Stocker. "With a no-deal Brexit, sheepmeat will still be imported as it is, while we may face a period when we lose our export access to the EU and potentially regain it but with high WTO tariff rates."

AHDB has published its initial assessment of the potential impacts of the proposed no-deal import tariff schedule on its key sectors.

Tom Hind, AHDB Chief Strategy Officer, said: “Trade implications remain substantial. Businesses will be considering variables such as currency, non-tariff barriers, the perishable nature of many foodstuffs and the proliferation of just-in-time supply chains.”

The assessment, covering cereals, potatoes, beef, sheep meat, pork and dairy, can be found here: