SCOTTISH sheep farmers have blasted a Tory minister’s “laughable” claim about the potential for selling lamb to the EU after Brexit.
George Eustice MP was appearing on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday where the host put questions about trade tariffs with the EU to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary.
It was put to the Tory minister that due to 90% of UK sheep exports going to the EU, sheep farmers would be “devastated” in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.
Eustice said: “No, that’s not correct.
“It’s also the case that the UK is by far and away the largest producer of lamb in the EU, some 35% of it.
“We would sell it, but it would increase prices in the EU. You have to accept tariffs do also have an impact on prices. The price of lamb would rise in the EU. That would also mean that demand in the EU for lamb would go down and there would be a fall in prices here in the UK in the short term.”
Hee did acknowledge that tariffs on lamb could cause significant issues and a solution would be ”mixed farmers could always diversify into beef because the UK would be importing less from Ireland”.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) Scotland feels that concerns from the industry have not been heard and
NSA Scotland chair, Jennifer Craig, said: “It would appear the sheep industry concerns on the impact of tariffs in the event of a No-Deal have been falling on deaf ears.
“For a Government minister to suggest on national television that our mixed farmers could diversify into beef in the event of the lamb price crashing is quite frankly a laughable response. The industry has been calling for support packages to be put in place for compensation for the sheep sector in the event of a No-Deal.”
Craig added that there is “a complete lack of clarity and guidance for our industry to plan for the next few months” and that if the UK Government cannot reach a trade deal with the EU and Eustice believes the sheep industry will be “unaffected”, then she sees no reason not to have a “compensation scheme” ready for them.
Craig continued: “Not only would this allow sheep farmers to plan ahead and know there will be support available in the event of a No-Deal, it would also reassure them that the Government is indeed taking the threat to their businesses and livelihoods seriously.
“The Scottish economy relies on the export of the lambs it produces. It has never been so important for our industry to be protected and maintained into the future in terms of food production, national importance, climate change targets and also the preservation of rural communities.”
NSA Scotland is predominantly run by active sheep farmers and works to represent the views and interests of sheep producers.