Welsh business leaders are welcoming news that, for now, talks between the UK and the EU in the hope of reaching a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU will continue, despite Boris Johnson’s failure to reach a deal with EU negotiators. The UK government had said it would “go the extra mile” to try to get a deal, after extending the talks, but added that EU remained “very far apart” on a number of issues.
Welsh farmers have today warned that failing to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU would be “catastrophic” and should be “avoided at all costs”, adding that “no responsible UK government” would allow it to happen.
Currently 73 per cent of all Welsh food and drink exports are destined for the EU, which is the largest single market in the world, and a no deal Brexit would mean many of these products would face substantial tariffs, including up to 40 per cent on lamb.
Wales’ food and drink supply chain plays employs more than 240,000 people in the Welsh economy and has a combined turnover of more than £22 billion.
This includes the majority of exports of red meat and dairy products worth an estimated £320 million to Wales.
Over a third of sheep meat produced in Wales is exported annually and, of this, more than 90 per cent is exported to the European Union.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Even if there is a trade deal with the EU, industries are facing major challenges from non-tariff barriers at borders, with additional costs for agricultural exports estimated to be up to 10 per cent, not to mention major disruptions and practical obstacles to the flow of goods.
“These already worrying impacts will increase manyfold if we fail to reach a trade agreement, in particular as a result of the tariffs that will be charged on our exports.
“The viability and very survival of businesses and the supply chains and jobs they support depends on a deal being struck and talk of an ‘Australia-style deal’ is just a euphemism for a damaging no-deal.”
Mr Roberts added: “We have said since the referendum that no responsible UK government would allow the UK to leave the EU without a trade deal.
“For us to leave the biggest and richest single market in the world without a deal, at a time when jobs, lives and the economy continue to be ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, would be a massive and reckless act of self harm.”
Clarity needed on our future EU trading relationship to avoid greater disruption
Paul Slevin, President, Chambers Wales, welcomed the news, that for now, there was still hope of a deal:
“While we are disappointed a fair and balanced deal has not yet been reached, we are pleased that both sides are committed to continuing to find a way to reach an agreement. We know January and onwards into 2021 will be challenging as businesses recover from both fatigue and the pandemic. We now need clarity on the future trading relationship with the EU to avoid an even greater level of disruption.”
With talks continuing, Welsh exporters continue to hope for an eleventh hour deal.