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UK farming industry fears Brexit will hurt exports

A tractor works in a field in Cudham, England. Photo: Dan Kitwood for Getty Images
A tractor works in a field in Cudham, England. Photo: Dan Kitwood for Getty Images

The UK farming industry has expressed fears that a no-deal Brexit will hurt exports over the next five years.

The Oxford Farming Conference carried out a poll of 650 delegates, consisting of landowners, scientists, professionals, solicitors and farmers, with links to the farming and food industries, on Friday (4 January) to gauge their confidence on the industry’s prospects.

They were asked: “Are you confident that food and farming exports will increase in the 5 years post-Brexit?”

Some 41% of respondents answered “yes” but a clear majority — 59% — said they did not expect exports to increase.

Brexit posed further worries for the delegates, as another question asked “Are you concerned that UK welfare and environmental standards might slip, in terms of requirements for imports, as we strike new trade deals?”

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69% of the poll respondents answered that they were concerned at the prospect of decreasing standards.

When asked “What will be the UK’s most important market post-Brexit?,” 68% of respondents maintained it would be the European Union above the rest of the world.

READ MORE: Brexit concerns hit the biggest part of the UK economy

At the conference, Labour’s Barry Gardiner had suggested that the UK government’s aim of maintaining high food standards would be undermined by encouraging cheaper imports. He also expressed concern over the impact global trade would have on food standards, saying: “If you look at the way global trade is going, it’s about block and it’s about power.

“The WTO is in crisis, the US is even threatening to pull out. We have a crisis in the global trade system.”

Gardiner, the shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change, had previously asked in light of cost constraints on the consumer and potential free trade deals, “Will the UK import goods with lower standards to meet these demands?”

Conservative MP George Eustice, minister for agriculture, fisheries and food told the conference that the country would “need to insist that the standards of imports are the same as ours.”