Cut-price Australian beef could flood UK market under no-deal Brexit


By Latika Bourke, The Canberra Times (Australia)

February 8, 2019


London: Cheaper Australian beef could flood the British market under a no-deal Brexit, it has been warned.


Currently Australia faces a cap and high tariffs on the beef it exports to the EU, most of which goes to the UK, making it difficult to compete with the EU's largest beef producers, which include Ireland and France.


But British Trade Secretary Liam Fox has flagged the radical possibility of the UK waving all goods through tariff-free, if there is a no-deal Brexit, to prevent food shortages and large price rises. This would free up Australian exporters to sell into the UK a far greater quantity of goods, at no tariff.


Fox said that if this happened it would affect up to 39 per cent of British farmers.


"Full liberalisation, would certainly expose the UK to sudden competition in sectors to which it is not currently," he said.


Labour MP Chris Leslie asked the minister: "You understand the worry that people have about unilateral tariff reduction in terms of undercutting cheap imports flooding in?


"If the British market is flooded with suddenly cheap competition from China, Brazil, wherever, it puts their jobs at risk doesn't it?"


Fox said that while he would not personally advocate slashing tariffs to zero because of those reasons, he could not rule it out, "because it's not my unilateral decision ... that's a collective decision that would be taken by the government.


"I'm very well aware of the impact zero tariffs would have on our agriculture sector.''


David Exwood, from West Sussex, a beef farmer of 30 years, said it was unthinkable that the government would contemplate wreaking the chaos zero tariffs would cause on British farmers.


"We have among the highest beef prices in the world, so it's going to be a very attractive market to any beef exporter ... and they're all going to be just clamouring to get beef in here, so of course we would be worried, and it's very hard to see how there wouldn't be chaos in the beef market," he said.


Exwood said no country in the world would operate on zero tariffs while also facing export tariffs. "It's a double whammy," he said...