Farming leaders relieved as last-minute EU trade deal becomes law

NFU East Anglia regional director Gary Ford

NFU East Anglia regional director Gary Ford - Credit: Pagepix

East Anglia's farming exporters have breathed a sigh of relief after the last-minute deal which preserves "vitally important" tariff-free trade with Europe was signed into law.

The EU (Future Relationship) Act received the backing of the Commons and Lords as the government rushed approval through both houses in a single day.

The legislation was granted royal assent with only hours remaining until the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, when the landmark agreement finally reached between the UK and EU on Christmas Eve will take effect.

Gary Ford, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said it was vital to maintain tariff-free and quota-free access to the UK's biggest export market, but the end of the Brexit transition means businesses will still have to prepare for new paperwork, border checks and restrictions in the New Year.

“This marks the end of a long and often rocky road since the EU Referendum in June 2016," he said.

“The NFU has campaigned strongly throughout for a deal that maintains close trading relations with the EU and it’s welcome news for East Anglia’s farmers that this has been achieved.

“We have successfully maintained access for our meat, dairy and our organic products, all of which are vitally important to farm businesses in the region. For example, 70pc of poultry meat exports go to the EU, a trade worth £192m in 2019.

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“Another important sector for East Anglia is barley. Last year, almost 90pc of our barley exports, worth £230m, went to the EU. In all, the EU market for UK agri-food exports is worth £14.5bn.

“However, not all agri-food products have been included in the terms of the deal, such as seed potatoes, and we will continue to lobby for that sector.

“Also, although trade with our largest export partner remains quota and duty free it will not be business as usual from 1 January. There are new requirements, new paperwork, new checks and new restrictions on the products we trade with the EU.

“It’s vital that businesses are prepared and we are providing information and support to farmers to help ensure they are ready for the changes ahead.”