Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has called on the UK Government to give Scottish farmers and crofters compensation in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Ewing said evidence shows Scottish farmers would be worse off under every Brexit scenario, when compared to current trade arrangements, with some or all producers facing lower returns.
He said sheep producers were particularly at risk. Almost 90% of the £390 million UK sheep meat export market goes to Europe, and tariffs as high as 45-50% could be imposed on these exports if no Brexit deal is agreed.
“A no-deal Brexit is by far the biggest threat to farming and to our successful food and drink sector,” said Mr Ewing.
“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% of the price of the meat, which would be a blow to our price competitiveness on the export market.”
He said if the UK was unable to competitively supply sheep meat to the EU after March 29, there was no other outlet that could come close, in terms of volume, in the short-term.
“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,” he added.
“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.”