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'No deal' tariff system would 'hammer' farmers, claims NFU Scotland

By Alistair Whitfield

NFU Scotland says its repeated warnings over a damaging ‘no deal’ tariff appear to have been disregarded.

The union says for the past six months it has persistently raised concerns over the proposed temporary tariff regime to be implemented if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

It has now written to Scottish Secretary of State Alister Jack to state the latest tariff schedule, published this week by the UK Government, would undermine many sectors of Scottish food and farming.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: "The biggest threat to agriculture from a disorderly Brexit is the potential for market shocks and market loss.

"A ‘no deal’ exit from the EU would be damaging enough, but a ‘no deal’ exit under the proposed tariff regime would hammer Scottish food and farming.

"To date, the UK Government has failed to recognise that asymmetrical treatment of the different agricultural sectors severely exposes those with no tariff protection to competition from agricultural goods, produced to standards that are inequivalent and most probably illegal in the UK, flooding the UK market tariff-free.

"In NFU Scotland's view this is wholly unacceptable.

"My dismay is that, despite repeated efforts since March when the UK Government’s updated tariff regime was first published, none of these very real and pressing concerns have been taken account of.

Mr McCornick said he realised that the tariff regime was intended to be a temporary measure until the UK transitioned to new trading arrangements with the EU and other countries.

However he continued: "To set a low or zero tariff rate on the importation of key agricultural products will bargain away any UK negotiating power and decimate any efforts to strengthen the offering of domestic primary producers in the process.

"If stronger tariff or tariff rate quota protection is not afforded to agriculture, then in the short to medium term, the UK Government must be prepared to respond to inevitable market disruption to ensure that Scottish farmers and crofters are not crippled by the unjustified tariff approach being taken.

"When we have the ambition to double the size of the farming, food and drink industry in Scotland to £30 billion, the tariff schedule, as proposed by the Government, would place that ambition in jeopardy."

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