The Cumbrian farming community has welcomed the announcement that a trade deal has at last been agreed between the UK Government and the EU.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed with European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen that the deal, from January 1, will mean no tariffs on each other’s goods when they cross borders and no limits on quotas – the amount of things which can be traded.
The UK Government said the deal covered trade worth £668 billion in 2019.
At a press conference, Boris Johnson said: “We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny.”
The text of the agreement has yet to be released.
Robert Craig, of Armathwaite, is vice-chairman of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.
He said that while details of the deal – reportedly running to 2,000 pages – are yet to be analysed, it comes as a huge relief that agricultural produce will seemingly be allowed to leave and enter the country without tariff barriers or quotas.
Robert, who is also a farmer director and vice-chairman of First Milk, added: “A no deal would not have been a long-term solution, because they would still have had to sit down and sort something out and that would have resulted in a lot of turmoil. A deal had to be done.”
Alston Moor farmer Thomas Carrick, the regional chairman of the National Sheep Association, also welcomed the end to uncertainty, saying the sheep industry is a vital part of the rural economy and it was essential that lamb exports be allowed to continue without barriers.
He added that the temporary closure of UK ports to stop the spread of the new strain of COVID-19 had demonstrated just how chaotic a no-deal Brexit would be, and this had probably helped to focus minds during the negotiations.
Chris Dodds, of Wreay, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association, said: “We have lobbied strongly, as chair of the Livestock Chain Advisory Group, to avoid the serious trade disruption that would result in not being adequately prepared in a post-Brexit environment.
“UK beef and lamb exports, in particular, represent a vital part of producer returns in Cumbria, and it is vital to maintain these export markets.
“What is clear, is that we have a product that Europe wants to buy, and we want to sell to Europe.
“The strong demand from Europe also encourages a competitive trade that also boosts the important home market.
“While we are encouraged by the most recent developments, we must not lose sight of the fact that we can expect further disruption and delays at ports in the early part of the new year regardless of any trade deal, with the added red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork required for exports.
“The LAA will continue to support its members and the red meat sector beyond the transition period and further into the post-Brexit trading environment.”