Time for common sense to prevail over single market and customs union membership says FUW

The evidence supporting the need for the UK to remain in the single market and customs union after Brexit is now incontrovertible says the Farmers’ Union of Wales, which has called for common sense to prevail.

“Continuing membership of these two institutions is the only way to avoid the dire collapse in incomes predicted in the latest AHDB report and in the FAPRI report in August,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

“Talks with the EU about some kind of alternative arrangement have not even begun, yet we only have around seventeen months before we leave the EU.”

The latest Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) ‘Horizon’ publication released last week reported the results of detailed modelling of different Brexit scenarios.

The document highlights the risks faced if Britain leaves the EU without easy, tariff-free access to the single market, with Less Favoured Area livestock farm incomes particularly hard hit, falling to negative figures in the worst case scenario. Lowland livestock farms fare little better, with incomes falling to less than £4,000 in two of the three scenarios looked at, and across all UK farm types, incomes more than halve under an ‘extreme’ Brexit scenario.

Last week the National Assembly for Wales debated the impact of Brexit on Welsh ports, with Assembly Members hearing that Welsh ports lack the physical capacity to accommodate new customs and border checks, and in August a Welsh Assembly report highlighted that lengthy delays, tailbacks on Welsh roads and disruption to freight supply chains could become the norm as a result of leaving the customs union.

Mr Roberts said that even where agreement had been reached with the EU, other World Trade Organisation members had objected, highlighting the dangers the UK would face in leaving the world’s biggest free market and attempting to negotiate with WTO members.

“The EU and UK sent a letter last week to WTO members outlining an agreed position on how quotas should be split when the UK leaves the EU, but the USA and other WTO members, including Canada, Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand, had already written to the EU and UK WTO ambassadors stating their objections to the proposals,” added Glyn Roberts.

The letter, signed by seven of the WTO’s 164 members, states ‘Such an outcome would not be consistent with the principle of leaving other [WTO] members no worse off, nor fully honour the existing TRQ access commitments. Thus, we cannot accept such an agreement.’

“This underlines the fact that the current EU negotiations are just the start of a complex process that would normally take decades.

“Almost daily we are seeing developments that reinforce the message that the only sensible outcome is to ensure we are still members of the common market and customs union on the day we leave the EU. Once that is accepted, the majority of the dangers, challenges and uncertainty just disappear,” said Glyn Roberts.