The United Kingdom left the European Union (EU) in January 2020 after 47 years of membership. Whilst agriculture in the UK is still recovering from the impact of COVID-19, it has a new challenge to face – adjusting to the new normal after Brexit. Previous rules surrounding imports and exports, trade deals, movement and logistics are no longer applicable, and British agriculture has to find a way forward with new systems in place.
UK Trade Deals Since Brexit
Since it’s no longer part of the EU, the UK can now pursue trade deals on its own and has done so with 69 countries and with the European Union itself. Most of them are “rollover” agreements with terms that are the same as when the UK was part of the EU. However, some new deals have been made and this article aims to break them down and discuss their effect on the British agricultural industry as a whole.
These deals are especially important in their impact on the UK agricultural industry since the UK heavily relies on imports. In fact, half of all food is imported, with the UK importing more than three-quarters of all fruits and vegetables consumed in the country. Because of this, any changes in trade agreements can definitely impact British agriculture.
UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
Since Japan is the largest net importer of agricultural and food products globally, this was an extremely important deal for the UK government to make. Japan imports approximately 60% of the food it consumes and the UK-Japan trade deal allows the UK to increase exports.
The UK-Japan deal is especially significant since it was the first major UK trade deal since Brexit. It is more beneficial to the UK than the EU’s deal with Japan and gives British industries, particularly British agriculture, a competitive edge when exporting goods to Japan. According to the UK government, the deal is expected to increase trade with Japan by approximately £15.2 billion.
One important aspect of this bill is strong tariff reductions for the UK’s beef, pork, salmon,and other agricultural exports. In addition to this, British agriculture will also benefit from low tariffs for products covered by quotas, including tea extracts, bread mixes, and Stilton cheese. The deal also includes protections for UK foods, including English sparkling wine, Welsh lamb and Yorkshire Wensleydale by increasing geographical indications (GIs). A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place.
Free Trade Agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein
The UK’s historic free trade agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein is not only an important one but one that greatly benefits British agriculture. The accord reduces tariffs on British food and farm products, boosts jobs in agriculture and strengthens a relationship already worth £21.6 billion.
In addition to “cutting-edge digital provisions” guaranteed to reduce unnecessary paperwork and save businesses resources like money and time, the deal also cuts tariffs as high as 277% for iconic British exports. These include West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, Traditional Welsh Caerphilly and Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese to Norway.
The British agricultural industry can also benefit from reduced tariffs and quotas on poultry and pork and UK spirits and wines will be recognised in both Iceland and Norway. Aquaculture will also benefit from reduced import tariffs on prawns, haddock and shrimps -since this will reduce costs to the fish processing industry.
UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement
UK livestock farmers are concerned about the UK-Australia trade deal since the government offered Australia a tariff-free deal. UK farmers are worried that the same will be done for other livestock-producing countries, which will then undercut UK agriculture and British farmers. This is especially concerning in Scotland, which uses 80% of its land for farming. This equals approximately 6.2 million hectares.
The government has stated that British farmers are protected because there’s a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, but this is little consolation for farmers who expect an influx of Australian meat imports. They have also mentioned that this is beneficial for farmers since it opens up markets and could lead to more exports overseas.
The farmers’ worst fears have been confirmed by Hugh Killen, the chief executive of the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo). He said that a no-tariff deal could result in Australian beef exports facing as much as a tenfold increase. The UK imported £4.1 million worth of beef and veal (560 tonnes) and £45.8 million worth of lamb and mutton (8500 tonnes) from Australia in 2020, but these numbers could rise significantly.
Furthermore, this has set a dangerous precedent for negotiations with other countries to negotiate no-tariff deals. UK food standards may also fall since UK farmers will be forced to compete with Australian farmers on an unfair playing field. Australia, for example, permits the use of pesticides like paraquat and long-distance live animal transport, both of which are banned in the UK.
Future Trade Agreements
Trade negotiations with countries like New Zealand and the U.S. could suffer as a result because market access given to Australia lowers prices in the UK. Other countries may demand more access because of this, making competition for UK agriculture even more fierce.
This is especially troubling since a trade deal with New Zealand is imminent, and the country is not only an agricultural leader but also has lower food standards than the UK. Farmers and consumers alike have said that free trade should not be prioritised over food standards and safety, making this a bone of contention.
These are only some of the UK trade deals since Brexit. There are many other rollover deals, and other trade agreements in the works, including those with New Zealand and the U.S.
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