A national livestock association is urging the UK Government to consider the broader potential impacts of new trade deals.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) spoke out as trade talks with New Zealand and Australia begin and warned the government it must not be willing to sacrifice the UK farming industry or undermine standards for the sake of a deal that might benefit other British industries.
The organisation said deals with Australia and New Zealand create “unique challenges” due to the size of the sheep meat industry in the two countries and failure to achieve suitable deals would have “catastrophic effects” for the UK sheep industry.
However, the UK Government said the talks will “secure new opportunities for farmers”.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The UK currently has a fine balance with lamb and mutton exports, imports, and domestic consumption.
“There is real concern that increasing tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for either New Zealand or Australia will damage this balance and make no common sense at all. We would have that concern in normal times but now, with future trade with the EU being uncertain, getting these deals wrong would have catastrophic effects for our industry and for the environments and communities that benefit from it.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “The UK will decide how we set and maintain our own standards and regulations, and we have been clear that we will maintain our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.”
She continued: “We will stand up for British farming and ensure free trade agreement negotiations are used to secure new opportunities for farmers.”