The government’s new import tariff regime will provide certainty for farmers by largely maintaining import tariffs at present levels, the NFU said after legislation implementing the UK Global Tariff (UKGT) was laid in Parliament.
NFU President Minette Batters stressed the importance of applying the tariff rates set out in the UKGT should the UK fail to reach an agreement with the EU. This is especially important for domestically produced goods which would face very high tariff costs to export into the EU in a no-deal situation.
However, the NFU does have serious concerns about a 260,000 tonne tariff-free quota for raw cane sugar, to be introduced regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the EU. This quota will undermine thousands of sugar beet growers in the UK and seriously jeopardise the viability of the home-grown crop.
Mrs Batters said:
“The majority of British farmers will be pleased that the government is sticking to the tariff regime it announced in the Spring, whether or not we strike a deal with the EU. Doing so ensures fairness for farmers and will help to prevent a flood of new imports of food produced in ways that would be illegal here.
“Of course, these new tariff costs would come into force on imports from the EU in a no-deal scenario, which no-one wants to see. Such an outcome would have severe ramifications for the long-term future of British farming, despite the important protections the UKGT will provide. I would stress the importance of reaching a deal with the EU for our nation’s food and drink sector which is currently worth more that £120 billion to the national economy.
“However, I am incredibly disappointed that the government is pressing ahead with an enormous tariff-free quota for raw sugar imports, which will have an extremely detrimental effect on the home-grown sugar sector by undermining them with imports produced in ways prohibited in this country.
“The government’s justification suggests that the price of sugar ‘would be no different’ as a result of the tariff-free quota but also that it ‘is in the interests of UK consumers’. It is hard to square these two assertions, and it is very difficult to understand what exactly this quota serves to achieve, apart from harming a successful home-grown industry.”
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