NFU Cymru has this morning given a cautious welcome to the Brexit agreement reached between the UK and the EU, and collectively agreed by the UK Government Cabinet last night.
Commenting on the political declaration as to our future economic partnership, NFU Cymru President Mr John Davies said: “I give a cautious welcome to the proposals that are outlined in the document as regards the trade in goods. Whilst our access to the European markets can never be the same after Brexit as it is now, I am encouraged by the fact that if the aspirations in the document are realised, then we are at least some way towards the free and frictionless trade that we all want to see with the EU. The talk of a comprehensive agreement on a free-trade area, with provisions ensuring a level playing field, zero tariffs, no fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors are welcome, as is reference to recognising the UK’s commitments on customs and regulatory co-operation, including alignment on rules, when applying checks and controls at the border.
“I would also add that whilst I welcome the political declaration regarding our future economic partnership as a real step in the right direction for Wales’ farmers, it is an aspiration and not a legal declaration. That’s why it will be crucial that all parties must negotiate in good faith during the transition period to make such an aspiration a reality.
“I am also pleased that the Withdrawal Agreement permits an extension to the transition period if necessary, therefore if the agreement is adopted, we have the option of a one-off extension to the transition period (which is due to finish at the end of 2020). I think this gives the sector some assurance that if we are still in the process of hammering out a trade deal with the EU27 in late 2020, we can at least extend the transition period , whilst we continue to work on the trade deal. This should avoid another cliff-edge scenario in just over two years’ time.”
Turning to the issue of geographical indicators, Mr Davies said: “I am pleased that the agreement also recognises the importance of geographical indicators and provides the opportunity for protected food names such as our world-leading PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef designations to be provided the same level of protection under UK law as they currently receive under EU law following the end of the transition period. It is important that we maintain these internationally recognised standards to help grow our premium food markets in the UK, the remaining EU and further afield.”
NFU Cymru President Mr John Davies cautioned: “The agreement reached with the EU and agreed by Cabinet does not represent the end of the Brexit process. There is still a very long way to go, including sign-off at the European Council summit on 25th November, and the meaningful vote in Parliament, expected to take place next month. There are very significant question marks over whether the agreement will secure Parliamentary approval, and if such approval is not secured then NFU Cymru will need to reassess its position.
“Although we’ve taken some important steps forward in the last few days, my concerns about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit are far from allayed, owing to the precarious political situation in the UK. A no-deal scenario would be a disaster for Welsh agriculture, which is heavily reliant on EU export markets. Around a third of our Welsh lamb crop is exported and over 90% of this goes to the EU27. We simply could not compete if our lamb were subject to an effective tariff rate of 46% under WTO terms, as well as being subject to the regulatory barriers that come with exporting as a third country.
“I give a cautious welcome to yesterday’s announcement. The matter is now firmly in the hands of the politicians, and we all look to them to do what is best for the country.”