Northern Ireland

Brexit: Michael Gove warns farmers of no-deal 'turbulence'

Cows Image copyright naumoid
Image caption Northern Ireland has a much higher proportion of small family farms than elsewhere in the UK

The environment secretary has warned farmers that a no-deal Brexit would make things difficult for the industry.

Michael Gove said it would have the greatest impact on small farms and food producers.

He added that those in the livestock sector would also be affected.

Northern Ireland has a much higher proportion of small family farms than elsewhere in the UK, particularly in terms of beef and sheep.

Addressing the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday, Mr Gove said it was important that politicians be "straight about the really significant challenges" that would flow from leaving the EU without an agreement.

Image caption Mr Gove told the conference a no-deal Brexit could lead to additional delays and costs for farmers

He told delegates that the "turbulence" it would create would be "considerable" and that the warnings should not be dismissed as "project fear".

Average tariffs on agri-food produce would be about 11%, with much higher tariffs of 40% or more on beef and sheep meat, he said.

The UK exports about 15% of its beef production and a third of its lamb, with much of it going to markets in EU countries.

Mr Gove told the conference that in addition to the tariffs, there could be additional delays and costs from increased inspections of food products.

He pointed out that while a weaker pound might make exports more attractive, it would also increase the cost of imported inputs, like fertiliser and feed.

Haulage costs could also increase and reduced availability of EU labour for agri-food industries would also be a challenge, he said.

Mr Gove said his department was doing what it could to mitigate the risks, but no-one should be "blithe or blasé" about the potential impact.

He used his speech to urge support for the government's Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated by the prime minister.

From 2021, he said, the UK would be able to "largely diverge from EU regulation", enabling it to pursue its land management priorities and invest in technology which the EU has "turned its back on".

"All of these are real gains that our departure from the EU can bring, but these real gains risk being undermined if we leave the EU without a deal," he said.


Later, a Belfast-based speaker, who was on the same panel, described Parliament as a "fish tank full of lunatics".

Image caption Dr Clive Black said Westminster was becoming an "international embarrassment"

Dr Clive Black is a senior figure at Shore Capital, a London investment company.

He told the conference that Westminster was becoming an "international embarrassment" and that billions of pounds were flowing out of the City of London because investors did not trust in the stability of the United Kingdom.

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