Farming organisations from across the European Union have joined with the UK’s National Farmers Union (NFU) in its call for an urgent breakthrough in trade talks to establish a UK/EU free trade agreement.

The call came during a virtual meeting on 17 June that highlighted the importance of agri-food trade between the UK and EU, as well as the significant impact that not reaching an agreement would have on farming businesses.

In 2019, food and drink exports to the EU were worth £14.2 billion to the UK economy and the bloc takes more than 70 per cent of the UK’s agri-food exports, including meat, fruit and vegetables.

More than 150 politicians, food and farming groups and stakeholders attended the webinar, jointly hosted by the NFU and six other UK/EU farming organisations, including the German Farmers’ Association and the French National Federation of Farmers’ Unions.

As a spokeswoman for the NFU commented, the event has shown that both colleagues and competitors in agriculture across the EU and UK are united in their call for free trade.

She added that all parties stand to lose if the relationship reverts to trading on “hugely unsatisfactory” World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms and barriers are erected across borders. In addition, she said, it is essential for consumers that they can access “safe, traceable and affordable food”.

The webinar came as farmers are increasingly concerned about the impact of US-UK trade talks on their business. The cost of production for UK meat producers particularly, with some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, is much higher than for their US counterparts. This is because of intensive rearing methods, such as sow stalls, used there and the use of growth-enhancing feed additives. These practices are banned under EU regulations but that will end in January, with potentially disastrous results for UK producers.

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