WITH THE scheduled Brexit date fast approaching, and no agreement in Westminster about how to proceed, the UK farming unions have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond seeking changes to the trade tariffs that will come into force if Britain leaves the EU without a formal deal.

Mr Hammond announced his 'no deal' plans last week, stating that 87% of imports to the UK would be eligible for tariff free access, but with protective measures applied to 13% of imported goods, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry and some dairy.

However, the farming unions this week highlighted the tariffs that would be applied in the other direction, to exports going from the UK to the EU, which could reach as high as 84% for beef and 48% for lamb.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick commented: “The government’s recent no deal applied tariff policy announcement confirms our view that to leave the EU without a deal in place would be catastrophic for UK farming.

“While we acknowledge that the tariff policy announced earlier this month is intended to be temporary and would be in direct response to an undesirable situation facing the country, we have very significant concerns about the damage this policy would cause to farmers across the country.

“Without the maintenance of tariff protections we would be in danger of opening up the UK to imported food which would be illegal to be produced here, produced at a lower cost because it may fail to meet the environmental and animal welfare standards which are legally required of our own farmers.

“Tariffs currently in place by virtue of EU membership on almost all agricultural products deemed to be sensitive by the UK will be slashed, including those on beef, poultry meat, cheddar, butter, sugar and pork,” he warned.

“We respect the government’s decision to avoid a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the event of leaving the EU without a deal. However, treating NI in effect as a separate customs territory from GB is not appropriate and government’s failure to secure reciprocal commitments from the Republic of Ireland is unacceptable,” he insisted.

“It is imperative that government does not allow the NI border to become a loophole that only works to the benefit of Irish businesses to the detriment of UK producers,” Mr McCornick urged.