Michael Gove warns no-deal Brexit would have ‘considerable’ impact on farmers

Secretary says such outcome could lead to tariffs of more than 40% on meat

British environment secretary  Michael Gove   said that in particular smaller farmers would be harmed if the withdrawal agreement were rejected. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

British environment secretary Michael Gove said that in particular smaller farmers would be harmed if the withdrawal agreement were rejected. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

 

A no-deal Brexit could lead to tariffs of more than 40 per cent on meat and would trigger a “turbulence” that would damage UK farming, the British environment secretary has warned.

Michael Gove, who campaigned to leave the European Union, said the potential gains of Brexit could be undermined if Westminster rejects the EU-UK withdrawal agreement negotiated by British prime minister Theresa May.

“I believe strongly that our departure allows us to rejuvenate our democracy, make power more accountable, escape from the bureaucratic straitjacket of the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] and develop a more vibrant farming sector with access to technologies the EU is turning its back on,” he said in a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday.

Warning about the dangers of a no-deal Brexit, he said that in particular smaller farmers would be harmed if the withdrawal agreement were rejected.

“Of course, a nation as adaptable, resilient and creative as ours can and will flourish over time, even without a deal,” said Mr Gove.

Turbulence

“But the turbulence which would be generated by our departure without a deal would be considerable. It would hit those who are our smaller farmers and smaller food businesses,” he added.

“A no-deal Brexit means we would face overall tariff rates of around 11 per cent on agricultural products. But some sectors would be much more severely affected,” he said.

“It’s a grim but inescapable fact that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the effective tariffs on beef and sheep meat would be above 40 per cent – in some cases well above that,” he warned.

Mr Gove said that tariffs were not the only issue of concern. “While the EU have pledged to accelerate the process whereby the UK is recognised as a third country and we can continue to export food to their markets freely, all products of animal origin will have to go through Border inspection posts and, at the moment, the EU have said 100 per cent of products will face sanitary and phytosanitary checks,” he added.

He said that hauliers too could face additional costs. Mr Gove added: “The combination of significant tariffs when none exist now, friction and checks at the Border when none exist now and requirements to re-route or pay more for transport when current arrangements are frictionless, will all add to costs for producers.

Delays

“As will new labelling requirements, potential delays in the recognition of organic products, potentially reduced labour flows and the need to provide export health certificates for the EU market which are not needed now.”

Mr Gove said “nobody can be blithe or blasé about the real impact on food producers of leaving without a deal”.

“That is just one of the reasons why I hope my colleagues in parliament support the prime minister’s deal. It isn’t perfect – but we should never make the perfect the enemy of the good,” he told the conference.

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said Mr Gove’s warnings about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit were the “understatement of the century”.

“The fact is that Brexit will be disastrous for the farming and agriculture sectors in the North,” she said.

“It will decimate small farms and put the livelihoods of many in jeopardy. Of course, the Tories have shown time and time again that they don’t care about the impact of Brexit on people in the North,” she added.

“As the Irish Government steps up its plans for a no-deal Brexit it must ensure that the needs of the Irish agriculture sector north and south are taken into consideration,” said Ms Anderson.