Belfast Telegraph

Strategy would ruin agricultural industry: Ulster farming chief

Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

The Government's import tariff plans for a no-deal Brexit would devastate local agriculture, it has been warned.

Ivor Ferguson, the president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, said the proposals were further proof that leaving without a deal would have catastrophic consequences for the region.

The Government outlined its temporary no-deal strategy yesterday, stating that no import tariffs would apply to goods entering Northern Ireland across the border. The region will be treated differently from the rest of the UK, where tariffs will be imposed on some EU goods if a Brexit deal fails to materialise.

Tariffs of up to 40% in some cases are planned for products being exported from the Republic to Britain.

Mr Ferguson said: "We have very real concerns about the proposal for a zero per cent tariff on agricultural goods coming from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the differential treatment with RoI and GB trade where tariffs will apply. This would drive down prices and hit producers here.

"It could also potentially open the door to illegal trade, which would seriously impact on the integrity of the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.

"It is unlikely the EU would offer the same zero tariff to Northern Ireland or the UK as a whole.

"This is why we have called for reciprocal tariffs. Whatever the EU applies, the UK should apply in return. The tariff plans emphasise why a no-deal Brexit must be avoided."

Mr Ferguson said he was shocked the Government has only now published the plans.

"Receiving them just over a fortnight before they could come into effect doesn't give farm or other businesses any time to prepare and is entirely unrealistic," he added.

Mr Ferguson said events this week further underlined why a no-deal Brexit must be avoided.

"This would be the worst possible outcome for family farm businesses in Northern Ireland," he added. "The UFU supported the Prime Minister's withdrawal agreement. While not perfect, it would have got us over the line to avoid a no-deal."

The Irish Farmers' Association warned the proposed regime would be disastrous.

IFA president Joe Healy said: "We export over 50% of our beef to the UK. If this is subject to tariffs, it will be a direct hit of almost €800m (£684m) on the sector."

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