Failure to compensate farmers for no deal Brexit could lead to ‘widespread land abandonment’, Fergus Ewing warns
A sheep farmer weighing a newborn lamb - Image credit: Julien behal/PA Archive/PA Images
Failure to compensate farmers in the event of a no deal Brexit could lead to “widespread land abandonment” in Scotland, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has warned.
The rural economy secretary is calling on the UK Government to guarantee it will compensate farmers if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Ewing also asked the government to make clear what its tariffs policy on goods imported from the EU will be.
Evidence suggests that Scottish farmers will be worse off than at present under every Brexit scenario, with sheep farmers particularly at risk.
Nearly 90 per cent of the UK’s lamb £390m exports each year go to Europe, and with tariffs predicted to be as high as 45 to 50 per cent if no deal is agreed by 29 March, the potential impact has been described as “devastating”.
Ewing said: “A no deal Brexit is by far the biggest threat to farming and to our successful food and drink sector.
“There is a range of independent research highlighting that under all possible scenarios, failure to replicate the current trade arrangements with the EU will have a detrimental impact on farmers, with our sheep sector under particular threat.
“UK sheep meat exports could suffer considerably if tariffs come into play.
“Carcasses make up an important part of what the UK exports to the EU and could potentially be facing tariffs as high as 45-50 per cent of the price of the meat, which would be a blow to our price competitiveness on the export market.”
Ewing raised concerns that at the same time as Scottish farmers are facing tariffs to export, the UK might drop tariffs on EU imports.
He said: “I am clear that we cannot countenance the prospect under no-deal of our exports facing high tariffs into the EU, while imports from the EU are waved through tariff-free.
“The UK Government needs to set out its policy on tariffs now, so that businesses are clear what they will have to contend with.
“That is why I am calling on the UK Government to guarantee that farmers will be compensated in the event of a no deal.
“Failure to do so, would increase the risk of businesses going under, significantly reduce net profitability across beef, sheep and crops sectors, and lead to widespread land abandonment across Scotland.”