A no-deal Brexit would mean “game over” for exports of lamb and beef into the EU, Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee was told yesterday.
James Withers, the chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, told the
committee in Glasgow that World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs would be about 47% on lamb and 50% on beef.
“For me that’s then game over for those exports into Europe,” he said.
“Dairy may have an opportunity, beef will struggle, lamb will be catastrophic.”
Mr Withers said the prospects for the UK’s biggest food export, which is salmon, were less bleak, as fresh salmon would carry a 2-3% tariff.
He added: “Smoked salmon and processed fish, probably about 13-14%.
“Certainly for agricultural products it’s a pretty grim scenario.”
The AHDB’s strategic insight manager, Sarah Baker, told the committee WTO tariffs of above 50% for agriculture were not unusual and would make products like lamb and seed potatoes uncompetitive overnight.
She added: “At the stroke of a pen a lot of those industries would really struggle.”
Meanwhile, the farmers union, NFU Scotland (NFUS), urged all politicians
to get behind the Chequers Brexit proposals.
The union’s director of policy, Jonnie Hall, also predicted disaster for Scotland’s farmers and crofters from a no-deal Brexit and said the Chequers agreement in July was closest to the union’s preferred trade option with the EU of a single market and customs union.
He said: “Post-Brexit access to trade remains a fundamental issue for Scottish farmers and crofters.
“We want to be as close as possible to the single market and customs union to secure frictionless, unfettered access to the EU while retaining the ability to develop new markets.
“Our greatest fear is a WTO default and ‘no deal’ scenario.
“Internal UK markets are the most significant outlet for our produce, but we have a requirement to sell beyond Scotland and the UK.
“Trade is a two-way street and the UK remains a significant market for other member states, especially the Irish.
“At the end of the day, a pragmatic agreement on trade must win out.
“It is important that politicians of all parties put their shoulder to the wheel and secure something as close to the Chequers agreement as possible.
Mr Hall also warned that the lack of uncertainty at farm level was starting to undermine business planning.