Gail Soutar, the NFU's chief international trade advisor, warned against an "unacceptable race to the bottom" if buyers abandoned British suppliers in a no-deal Brexit © PA Images
Gail Soutar, the NFU's chief international trade advisor, warned against an "unacceptable race to the bottom" if buyers abandoned British suppliers in a no-deal Brexit © PA Images

Buyers: back British farming to beat no-deal Brexit, says NFU

2 August 2018

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned buyers against switching to cheaper, foreign food suppliers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Gail Soutar, the NFU’s chief international trade adviser, said if no deal is struck, the UK might relax food safety rules for foreign imports to reduce delays at the border, undercutting British farmers who would face stricter regulations.

In this case, she told SM, buyers should maintain relationships with UK suppliers to “make sure British production standards are not undermined by a product of lower quality coming in”. 

Switching to cheaper, lower quality foreign imports, which would pass more lenient food safety border checks, risked leaving British farmers “unable to compete,” she said, and “facing an unacceptable race to the bottom”. 

She said farmers would try to avoid that by “upholding our standards”. But if there was one thing buyers should do it was to “continue to back British farming,” she continued. “A thriving domestic agriculture base is absolutely key to that thriving manufacturing base in the UK”.

Soutar, the NFU’s top Brexit advisor, called reports of stockpiling food in case of a no-deal “concerning”. 

“It’s simply not possible to stockpile perishable food,” she said. On this, the government has so far made “no contact with the NFU that I know of,” she added. 

Last week, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab hinted at the possibility of such a contingency plan. But Soutar said: “We await further detail from the government on its contingency planning for a no-deal scenario.”

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