Lords warn of potential disaster for agri-food sector
Hard border controls, tariffs and smuggling could “severely disrupt” the agri-food industry here post-Brexit, the House of Lords EU Committee is warning.
The Lords’ Brexit: Agriculture report, published yesterday, insists there will need to be Transitional Arrangements to allow the British government to agree new free trade agreements “in order to mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of trading on World Trade Organisation terms on the agricultural and food sectors. (Paragraph 156).
The Stormont Department of Agriculture told the committee nearly 30% of NI milk is processed in the Republic and Northern milk could cross the border five times before ending up in a bottle of Irish cream liqueur.
It’s not just dairy producers who are at the edge of a Brexit abyss. Meat producers are looking at trade disruption and quality assurance problems once the UK is outside the EU, Single Market, Customs Union and beyond the reach of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Republic accepts 40% of Northern Ireland’s live lamb exports. Nearly one third of pigs slaughtered and processed in Northern Ireland come from the Republic.
The Lords note, somewhat dryly: “The Government should make every effort to avoid the re-introduction of customs controls on the Irish land border. (Paragraph 113)”
They are stark when it comes to describing the scale of complex Brexit problems. They also doubt openly if the work needed to sort out future trade arrangements while maintaining food standards can be completed in anything like the two-year period stipulated by Article 50.
They warn: “in the short term, the Government will need to work closely with the industry to help it respond to critical challenges: forging new trading arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world; providing regulatory stability and clarity; addressing the future of funding for the agricultural sector; and ensuring access to labour. (Paragraph 21).
Not much sign of early progress on that list so far ….