Gove confident of tariff-free agri food access post Brexit – but ‘more ambitious’

The UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, said earlier today that he is “confident” of getting a Brexit deal with the EU which will see tariff-free access for agri food products for the UK.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference this morning, he said: “I understand that people in this room, and beyond, particularly want to know what will happen to access to our biggest export market – the EU 27.

“By definition, we cannot yet know the final outcome of a trade negotiation which is about to get underway, and Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is preparing for every eventuality.

But we are confident of building a new economic partnership with the EU that guarantees tariff-free access for agri-food goods across each other’s borders.

Explaining this, Gove said: “We know that we have a deficit in agricultural and horticultural produce with the EU 27.

“Irish beef farmers, French butter and cheese producers, Dutch market gardeners and Spanish salad growers all have an interest just as – if not more – acute than Welsh sheep farmers or Ulster dairy farmers in securing continued tariff-free access between the UK and the EU,” the secretary said.

But we should be – and we are – more ambitious than that. Securing greater access to, and penetration of, other markets will be important to British agriculture’s further success.

“Increasing exports to, for example, China is not just a good in itself in trade terms; it also helps the business model of many farmers to work even better.

“There are, as we all know, parts of the pig for example which don’t find favour with the British consumer but which are delicacies in China.

“Satisfying that demand means other parts of the carcase can be used to meet demand at home, or indeed elsewhere in Europe, which is currently met by Dutch and by Danish farmers.

“Pursuing new trade opportunities outside Europe can make us more competitive with Europe,” Gove said.