The Ulster Farmers Union has warned that interim tariff arrangements announced by the UK this Wednesday would "devastate Northern Ireland’s farming industry".
While heavy taxes would apply to agricultural imports, a tariff-free quota equivalent to what the UK currently imports from the EU would be exempt from tariffs, and trade from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland would be fully exempt for a period.
“We have very real concerns about the proposal for a 0% tariff on agricultural goods coming from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the differential treatment with Republic of Ireland and Great Britain trade where tariffs will apply," said UFU president Ivor Ferguson. "This would drive down prices and hit producers here. It could also potentially open the door to illegal trade which would seriously impact on the integrity of the NI agri food industry."
Instead, the UFU has called on the UK to reciprocate whatever tariffs the EU applies to UK exports. The organisation also slammed the British government's announcement of the tariffs just over two weeks before the UK is due to exit the EU on 29 March, leaving insufficient time for farmers and businesses to prepare.
It would crush our farming base
The agri food alliance of food processors has also warned that the plan would be devastating for the industry. "It would deal a fatal blow to indigenous food production in the UK and in particular Northern Ireland. It must not be contemplated," a statement from the group reads.
According to the group, the tariff-free quota could give the European Union unfettered access to Northern Ireland, and therefore Great Britain, whereas Northern Irish producers would not be able to export freely to the EU.
"It would crush our farming base, destroying family businesses within weeks and would decimate investment leading to closures and job losses," the statement continued. "We would also face gridlock on our roads and at our ports due to the increased volume of goods coming from the Republic of Ireland in transit to Great Britain."
Both the UFU and the agri food alliance have called on MPs to avoid a no-deal Brexit at all costs in light of the proposed trade arrangements.
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