The need to develop agri-food exports in non-EU markets is more important than ever for EU farmers to help to mitigate the risk posed by Brexit. That was the view expressed by Commissioner Phil Hogan at a recent global trade conference in Dublin.
Unsurprisingly, little was given away on what the EU’s negotiating strategy on Brexit might be as Article 50 has not yet been triggered. He did claim that an agreement on the terms of exit would need to be concluded before an agreement on the future trading relationship would be finalised. However, this does not preclude exit negotiations and trade negotiations proceeding in a broadly parallel fashion as indicated previously by Michel Barnier, the EU Commission’s lead Brexit negotiator.
Commissioner Hogan did pose the question whether British farmers and food standards would become “sacrificial lambs” on the altar of free trade for a global Britain? He was clear that the EU will not compromise its food standards in the pursuit of trade deals although there was also an acknowledgement that any potential trade deal between the EU and Mercosur would require careful management.
What appears implicit in Commissioner Hogan’s views is that if the UK wants a deal with the EU on agriculture, existing (EU) standards would need to be adhered to. If the UK pursues free trade deals with the US for example and permits hormone treated beef to be sold in Britain, could this mean that more rigorous checks are imposed for UK-EU agricultural trade?