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‘Catastrophic’ no deal could see imports of food illegal to produce in UK

A no deal Brexit would be "catastrophic" and could lead to food being imported that would be illegal to produce in the UK, the head of the National Farmers' Union has warned.

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge, NFU president Minette Batters warned that leaving the EU without an agreement would mean the introduction of export taxes on food and livestock sent to Europe.

She insisted this could see many producers unable to export – with sheep farmers among those who would be worst hit.

With 40% of British lamb transported to France, Ms Batters said many farmers would go out of business and a large percentage of the UK's sheep flock would be slaughtered.

"No deal could mean we import food that would be illegal for our farmers to produce in the UK" says President of the NFU, Minette Batters. #Ridge
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— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) July 7, 2019

When asked if leaving the EU and opening Britain to world markets would lead to British families paying less for food, Ms Batter said: "We have the most affordable food in the UK out of all of the European Union.

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"If you look at it globally we are third in the world league table on affordable food. How much cheaper do we want our food?

"This is about values. This about food values of animal welfare and environmental protection. We've consistently said as farmers we don't want to see that downgraded.

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"We don't want to import food that would be illegal for our farmers to produce here and that's the big issue," she said.

"Every member of the public I speak to wants to retain these values but in a no deal with couldn't do that.

"If we leave in an orderly manner we can put that legislation in place and can make sure that food that comes into our marketplace is produced to these same standards.

"It's not about not leaving – it's about how we leave and no deal is catastrophic."

Conservative MP Dominic Raab told Ridge the government understood the concerns of industries like farming.

"The NFU's position on this has been very clear throughout.

"There are certainly some sectors where there are risks…and we need to manage those risks with a can-do spirit and giving a clear indication we will support all our sensitive industries through this."

Sue Hayman MP, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "As the main representative body for UK farming has today said, a no deal Brexit would be 'catastrophic' for British farming and our food and drink industry – the largest manufacturing sector in the UK.

"The prospect of British farmers being forced to needlessly destroy sheep due to not being able to sell to European markets in the event of no deal is a truly depressing and utterly appalling scenario."

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