Brexit fury as ‘very serious threat’ to farmers picked out in new trade deal

New Zealand: Farmers warn UK over 'standards' following trade deal

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The free trade agreement will ultimately see all tariffs and trade taxes removed from New Zealand’s exports of lamb, beef and butter to the UK. Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister, has warned that this will place enormous pressure on UK farmers and might see some producers out-competed.

The Department for International Trade insists that “tariff liberalisation… can be staged over time”, giving UK farmers time to adjust.

Quotas (the amount of a particular product a country can export before facing tariffs) will be gradually removed over 15 years for lamb and beef from the time the deal is implemented.

After this time, all imports of these goods will be tariff-free.

The adjustment period is even shorter for dairy products, including butter and cheese, with all quotas being removed after just three years.

But Mr Poots said the removal of quotas will damage Northern Ireland farmers even if it is “staged over time”.

“I have been clear in my discussions with UK ministers that tariff-free access to the UK market for New Zealand farmers produce is a very serious threat to our farmers, even if that access is phased in over a number of years,” he said.

“New Zealand is a very significant and competitive beef, sheep and dairy exporter and has the potential to quickly increase exports further with a view to targeting the UK market.”

This isn’t the first time Mr Poots has warned of the dangers of zero-tariff trade.

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A similar deal struck with Australia earlier this year will see tariffs phased out over a 15-year period on a range of goods – including beef and sheep products.

Mr Poots argued in May that the deal will enable Australian farmers to “undercut UK producers and to reduce Northern Ireland’s market share in Great Britain”.

The trade deal with New Zealand was struck late last month.

Critics have highlighted that while the deal is expected to boost New Zealand’s economy by 0.3 percent, the impact on the UK’s economy is – in the Government’s own estimation – likely to be “limited”.

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Britain’s GDP could see either a positive growth of 0.01 percent or a negative growth of -0.01 percent as a result of the deal.

The Government hopes instead that the agreement will “break new ground on areas of shared ambition for a modern trading relationship”.

But for many farmers – not just those in Northern Ireland but across the UK – this is not nearly enough.

The President of the National Farmers Union, quoted in the Guardian, warned after the deal was struck that the UK will now face “significant extra volumes of imported food – whether or not produced to our own high standards – while securing almost nothing in return for UK farmers”.

Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, was noticeably more cheery on the subject.

“It’s one of our best deals ever and secured at a crucial time in our Covid recovery,” she said.

Mr Poots has also criticised the Government for a lack of involvement of devolved authorities in the talks, highlighting that the Government’s approach – especially without the input of others – will damage UK farmers, along with producers in other sectors.

“I fear that if the approach that the UK Government has taken with Australia and New Zealand is confirmed in the ratified free trade agreement then the agriculture sector in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will in the future come under severe pressure from imports with a resulting negative impact on farm incomes and viability,” he said.

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