Sheep Farming: No-deal EU Exit

Part of Election of Select Committee Chairs (Notice of Election) – in the House of Commons at 10:37 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:37 pm, 3rd September 2019

Yes, absolutely, there is discretion, and the UK Government have already indicated what their tariff schedule would be in a no-deal scenario. Governments have the opportunity to have a lower applied tariff—lower than the bound tariff set in the WTO. The option is also open to any Government unilaterally to suspend tariffs. Indeed, should it wish, tariff suspension would be open to the EU, which I think is unlikely. Alternatively, and more likely, is the creation of an autonomous tariff rate quota for lamb that would be open to the whole world, including the UK. There are many options that both the EU and the British Government have unilaterally to apply tariffs that are lower than the WTO bound tariff.

However, as I said, it is important to recognise that we are the dominant producer. The EU could source more product from New Zealand, provided it had access to the ceiling currently set under the EU tariff rate quota. In the medium term, countries such as Spain could increase their production, but they are unlikely to be able to do that in the short term. For those reasons, it is likely that there would be an increase in consumer prices in the European Union as a result of its applying the full MFN tariff.

It is important to recognise that that increase in price would dampen demand in the European Union. Modelling suggests that that would increase supply in the domestic market and that as a result prices in the UK could fall by up to 30%. To put that into context, that means prices going back down to roughly where they were in 2015, which was a difficult year for the sheep sector. We are talking about a significant potential reduction, but it is not unprecedented. It would simply be going back to levels prior to the referendum result.