£6 billion pledge to UK farming and fishing industries from Tory contender Jeremy Hunt
Just days after a heartfelt plea for urgent action needed to support the British beef sector, Tory contender, Jeremy Hunt has said he would make £6 billion available to support the farming and fishing industries, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking about the announcement NFU president Minette Batters said: “While it is reassuring to see that Jeremy Hunt recognises that farmers will be some of the hardest hit by a no-deal Brexit, it remains the case it would be simply catastrophic for British food and farming. It is crucial that any future Prime Minister and their Government takes every measure to avoid this outcome.
“For thousands of farming businesses it would mean the loss of their biggest trading partner overnight, significant disruption to imports of key products such as animal medicines and a tariff regime that has the potential to allow imports of food to standards that would be illegal to produce in this country.
“While this sum of money may seem significant, it can only have a limited impact on mitigating the devastation a no-deal Brexit would have on farming and the British economy in the long term.”
The National Sheep Association (NSA) welcomed the policy pledge.
In October 2018, NSA set out a ‘no deal notice’ in response to Government notices, in which it called for money to be committed to assist sheep farmers with the cost of offsetting tariffs in a no deal scenario. Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, commented: “NSA has been calling for this kind of support for some time now, and to see a Prime Minister hopeful putting this at the top of their agenda is very welcome.”
Leaving the EU without a deal is something NSA has been clear would be devastating for the sheep industry. Stocker continued: “The two final candidates in the race to lead the country are battling to find a way to deliver Brexit swiftly following the political stalemate which has dominated Parliament, and the country, so far this year. However, there is no certainty whether this will be done with or without a deal and this is concerning for the sheep sector. A no deal scenario, resulting in falling back to WTO rules, would mean exporting sheepmeat into the EU, our largest sheepmeat exporting partner, with a 40-50% tariff, making this an unaffordable market for UK farmers. Providing support with tariffs would be a fantastic way to help farmers through this rocky time, and we welcome it immensely.”
However, NSA is concerned by the process of this support. Mr Stocker added: “In order to deliver this support the Government must come up with a creative process that doesn’t leave the country open to WTO challenge. This is something NSA has been putting a lot of thought and work into and we hope is something the next Prime Minister will be prepared to engage his Government with.”
NSA is reminding both candidates of the vulnerability of the sheep sector in a no deal position and is calling for a similar commitment from the other candidate in the race, Boris Johnson.