The Farmers’ Union of Wales described the prospect of a free trade deal with New Zealand and losing continental markets as a result of a ‘hard Brexit’ as a perfect storm for Welsh Agriculture.
The comments came amid growing speculation that the Government will this week announce its intention to pursue a ‘hard Brexit’ by leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, and just days after Prime Minister Theresa May revealed the UK was seeking a free trade agreement with New Zealand.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The livestock producers which make up the vast majority of Welsh farmers are particularly reliant on exports to the continent, and we have made it clear since the referendum that full and unfettered access is essential to Wales.”
Mr Roberts said around 30 percent of Welsh lambs were exported to continental Europe, and that the complexity of pan-EU food supply chains meant there were acute threats for other sectors.
“Certain cuts of meat are preferred in the UK, while others are preferred on the continent, so in order to make up the value of a carcass it is essential that current markets are kept open.”
Responding to the threat of a free trade deal with New Zealand, Mr Roberts said: “I wrote to the former Prime Minister in July, highlighting our concerns regarding such a deal with a country which is in such direct competition with ourselves.”
As far as the opportunities represented by such a deal were concerned, Mr Roberts described these as negligible.
“New Zealand has a population of around 4.5 million, which is about one percent of the size of the EU, and is 11,500 miles away.
“A free trade deal may be a great opportunity for New Zealand, but the benefits for the UK as a whole are zero, and for agriculture are extremely negative.”
Mr Roberts said he was concerned that the deal was being flouted for reasons of political expediency, and that gaining a market of 4.5 million consumers on the other side of the planet could not make up for the loss of a 500 million consumer market on our doorstep.