Michael Gove’s threatened imposition of import tariffs on EU goods from January 2021 may just be an opening position in the trade negotiations that start next month. It is certainly a U turn on his statement a year ago that there would be minimal or no import tariffs post EU withdrawal.
But Mr Gove, the most impressive and engaged Defra minister in recent years, must know the effect that import tariffs would have on agriculture’s suppliers. Much of the agrochemicals, fertilisers, feed additives, animal medicines, farm machinery and spares used in the UK is sourced from or through Europe. And a large volume of feed materials originating around the world are transhipped through EU ports such as Rotterdam.
Additional checks and bureaucracy will add cost and delay the smooth flow of these essential goods from manufacturer to end customer. This would not be conducive to the drive to raise UK farm productivity.