The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has described the UK Government’s announcement of global tariff rates for key Welsh agricultural products which are broadly aligned with those of the European Union as a welcome step in the right direction - but has warned that these should not be watered down, whatever the outcome of current trade negotiations.
Speaking just hours after a meeting with Greg Hands, the UK Government’s Minister for Trade Policy, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The importance of aligning agricultural tariffs for products such as beef, lamb and dairy produce is something the FUW made clear in a meeting with Minister Hands on Monday [May 18].
“Since February last year, we have written repeatedly to the UK Government regarding proposed draft tariff rates which would represent a major threat to UK farmers and consumers, the UK’s food security and would be a massive own goal in terms of reducing our negotiating capital in trade talks.”
In early March this year, the FUW responded to a consultation by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade, stating that: ‘Tariffs on agricultural produce protect UK farm businesses against unfair competition from products produced in conditions which would be illegal in the UK, including in terms of environmental, health and welfare standards, workers rights and working conditions.
‘This thereby protects the UK's high standards, farm businesses and those businesses which form part of agricultural supply chains, and those workers within those supply chains. This also protects and helps maintain domestic food production with the effect of increasing UK food security.’
Mr Roberts said that while the FUW was still considering the full range of tariffs - of which there are almost twelve thousand - and their potential impacts, the decision to closely align tariffs for key Welsh agricultural products such as lamb, beef, cheese and butter with those in place in the EU was a welcome step compared with previously published draft rates which were a fraction of those applied by the EU.
“However, it is essential that we do not see these reduced or watered down, whatever the outcome of the current trade negotiations,” said Mr Roberts.
“We need to maintain tariffs at rates which protect our farmers and food security and give us negotiating capital when discussing trade deals. Even in the event of a no-deal Brexit in the short term, we need to keep import tariffs at rates which match those of the EU and therefore provide an incentive for a beneficial deal between the UK and other countries - especially those that are on our doorstep within the EU, ” he added.