THE prospect of a no-deal Brexit was branded as 'disastrous' by farmers in a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Michael Gove and Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns as the Royal Welsh Show opened today.

During the meeting, FUW president Glyn Roberts told Messrs Gove and Cairns that no responsible UK Government or Parliament would allow the UK to leave the EU without a deal.

“We have been relentless in highlighting the grave economic impacts for agriculture, rural communities and other industries of a hard Brexit, and our concerns regarding the rhetoric of both of the prime ministerial candidates was made clear to both secretaries of state.

“The latest analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru suggesting 92.5 per cent of our lamb export trade could disappear if we go over the Brexit cliff on October 31 highlight our concerns.”

Mr Roberts also highlighted the FUW’s concerns that the tariff rates that the UK Government intended to put in place for food imports were a fraction of the rates UK exporters would have to pay to send produce into the EU.

“We also highlighted the fact that the proposal to use a WTO exemption more normally applied in extreme scenarios such as famines to allow produce to cross into the UK from the Republic of Ireland tariff free raised the likelihood that Northern Ireland would become a tariff-free backdoor into the home market.

“Such lower or non-existent tariffs would be wholly unacceptable and add significantly to pressures on UK markets.”

While Mr Roberts acknowledged and welcomed the fact that the tariff rate for lamb and sheepmeat would be set at the same rate as for UK exports to the EU, this would be of little help given a deal had already been reached with New Zealand and that the main concern for Welsh farmers was the loss of export markets because of EU tariffs and barriers.

During the meeting, Mr Roberts also emphasised the risk that high bovine TB levels in the UK would feature heavily in future trade negotiations and could jeopardise export markets, and that progress needed to be made in England and Wales.

“While we appreciate that dealing with TB is a devolved issue, trade is not, and this needs to be considered as a trade issue as well as one which needs tackling because of the horrendous economic and mental health impacts it is having on individuals, families and rural communities.”

The need for a multi-annual financial framework to be agreed which ensured Welsh agriculture continued to receive sufficient levels of funding was also discussed, as was the failure of UK governments to make progress on developing and agreeing on frameworks which protect Welsh and other producers against distortion within the UK’s home market.

“As things currently stand, when we leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy our four nations will have the greatest freedom seen in centuries for agricultural policies to diverge, and the risk of market distortion and farmers in some nations being disadvantaged is huge.”