Debate Magazine

No, Gove! Just No!

Posted on the 22 February 2019 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From the BBC:
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has promised that the government will apply tariffs to food imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to provide "specific and robust protections" for farmers.
His remarks come as the government is poised to release details of tariffs (taxes on imports) that would apply to thousands of products coming in from around the world, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Many supporters of Brexit argue that tariffs on food and other items should be scrapped in order to lower prices for consumers.

The logic is perverse:
But farmers fear that cheap imports and lower standards would destroy many parts of British agriculture.
"Your concerns have absolutely been heard," Mr Gove told a conference of the National Farmers' Union (NFU). "It will not be the case that we will have zero-rate tariffs on food products. There will be protections for sensitive sections of agriculture and food production." He added that an announcement on a no-deal tariff schedule "should be made later this week".
"If you obliterate the tariff wall… we would be massively undermined by food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce to in this country," NFU president Minette Batters told the BBC. "It would decimate British agriculture - it is quite honestly as simple as that."

Let's follow the logic as far as we can.
1. The UK has a fairly similar climate to other European countries and the same standards, so there is a level playing field [sic] for things like potatoes, wheat, beef, milk etc. So that's no argument for UK tariffs on food from other EU Member States, i.e. no change to current situation.
2. The UK does not have a similar climate to much warmer countries outside the EU, where you can grow bananas, olives, oranges. Quite possibly these countries have lower standards, but there aren't UK banana, olive or orange farmers to be protected, so there is no reason to "protect" them by imposing tariffs on bananas.
3. "But chlorinated chickens!!" shouts the crowd. That's a different topic, if these are proveably unhealthy, the UK government should just ban the import thereof.

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