Why a no-deal Brexit is catastrophic for British farming

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We're working on behalf of members to ensure the best Brexit for British farm businesses, leaving without a deal could have significant impacts on British farm businesses. 

Click on the links below to see how your sector could be affected, what you can do to prepare and what the NFU is asking government to do in the event we do leave the EU without a deal:

See also: Brexit frequently asked questions

Why would a no deal be catastrophic for British farming?

Trade embargo

  • EU legislation could effectively result in a trade embargo on the export of UK animal based products such as meat, eggs and dairy to the EU. These products can only be imported by the EU from approved countries, and it could take months for such status to be granted to the UK. The lamb industry would be particularly impacted. In 2017, 31% of domestic sheep meat production, the equivalent of 4.5million sheep, was exported and 94% was destined for the EU.

Increased imports

  • The UK government could avoid charging tariffs on imports to prevent a rise in food prices, which could have a negative impact on domestic food production and consumer choice, as well as an increase in imports of products produced to lower standards.

Export tariffs

  • Export tariffs could be imposed on the 60% of UK food, feed and drink that go to the EU, increasing export tariffs to an average of 27% on chicken, 46% on lamb, 65% on beef, and range from €172 to €1,494 per tonne in pork.

A cut in access to farm inputs

  • It is likely that trade barriers will go up between the UK and EU which could limit the availability of many farm inputs such as veterinary medicines, fertilisers, plant protection products, machinery parts and animal feed. Furthermore, as the EU will no longer recognise UK organic certification bodies, exports of organic products to the EU would be severely curtailed.

Less workers

  • The sudden end of labour mobility from the EU would cause serious problems when it comes to securing the necessary labour to harvest and process UK produce, as well as in related roles such as carrying out veterinary inspections.

Organic exports cut

As the EU will no longer recognise UK organic certification bodies, exports of organic products to the EU would be severely curtailed.

LISTEN: NFU podcast - Bitesized Brexit | Episode 10: NFU EU exit chief adviser Gail Soutar on avoiding a 'no-deal'

In this episode of the Bitesized Brexit podcast, the NFU’s EU Exit Chief Adviser Gail Soutar explains why avoiding a no-deal Brexit is such a big deal for British farming.

She explains why “on day one of no-deal Brexit we would not have the right approval to be able to export into the EU” but highlights how the NFU is working “through our Brussels office how best to convince the European union to give us” the right status.

Gail also highlights the Brexit Toolkit available to NFU members that breaks down what the organisation is doing for members in each particular sector. Visit NFUonline for more information.

LISTEN: NFU podcast - Bitesized Brexit | Episode 6: NFU President Minette batters on a 'no deal'

In this still timely episode from 12 December, NFU President Minette Batters talks about the need for the government to take all possible steps to avoid a no-deal Brexit and refers to the six key principles guiding the NFU's aim to deliver the best possible outcome for British farming.