Farmers in Northern Ireland have made calls for an extended transition period to be granted post Brexit, with fears of huge losses throughout the beef industry, as reported by ft.com.
They made the calls to Democratic Unionist party, fearing future mammoth losses as a result of switching to World Trade Organisation rules after Brexit. They have been offered a two year transition period, but say a five year window would be the minimum requirement to minimise disruption to the markets.
The Livestock and Meat Commission, an industry levy funded non-departmental public body, published in a report higlighting the deep concern over declining farm profits in future under World Trade rules, felt amongst farmers. They say they these worries are elevated when combined with reduced farm profits.
“The most viable solution for safeguarding the future of the industry is not only a UK-EU post-Brexit comprehensive free-trade agreement, but until then to have a five-year transition period with a midway review, to avoid an interim deal simply being a stay of execution for the industry,” said Ian Stevenson, chief executive of the commission.
There are fears amongst beef farmers and sheep farmers in Northern Ireland, who are DUP followers, that there will be a dramatic change to their annual combined £1.1billion revenue if the worst fears surrounding Brexit come true.
Another study carried out by a group of consultants from the Andersons Centre and Oxford Economics observed major drawbacks set to hit farmers under World Trade Organisation trading rules. It reported that tariffs on meat sales can range anywhere from 40% up to 100%.
One option, mentioned in the report, is where the UK cut tariffs on imports from major producers in an open-door policy. The report did also find though that overall output would drop by up to 21%. The study reported that the viability of beef and sheep farming across Northern Ireland would be seriously threatened, with grave consequences for the wider Northern Irish rural economy.
A second option mentioned is a “WTO equivalence” policy, which means the UK and EU would impose similar import tariffs, with mutual veterinary standards.
“Whilst output could rise marginally in the short-run (as domestic consumption displaced EU imports), gains would be eroded by declining consumption in the longer-term due to higher prices, and exports to the EU would still fall by over 90 per cent,” the study also reported.
The livestock commission made the calls for UK to remain as an interim member of the EU’s single market and customs union. They want this during their five year transition period, with a review midway through the term to examine the progress towards a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. This has been made a number one priority by all sides in the recent Brexit talks across the UK and Ireland.
The only other alternative is a “Cyprus-type model”, mentioned by the livestock commission, who said this should be considered should WTO trading be implemented.
“There are special rules regarding the trade of goods between the southern half [of Cyprus] and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, the report also notes that whilst a Cyprus-type model could help to facilitate trade reasonably close to existing levels, potential obstacles remain.” it said.