Crofting concerns remain about the “catastrophic” impact tariffs will have on lamb exports in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Fears that lamb exports could face tariffs of up to 40 per cent have been voiced by chairwoman of the Scottish Crofting Federation, Eleanor Arthur.
The Whalsay crofter has spoken after Food and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice said tariffs could become a reality once the transition period ends at the end of December.
It comes after a meeting organised by Isles MP Alistair Carmichael which involved key agricultural figures.
Ms Arthur said: “Our members are very worried about the effect of a no deal exit from the EU on the agricultural sector.
“For Shetland, it would be nothing short of catastrophic.
“Sheep are by far the main product of agriculture here, and if there are tariffs of 40 per cent or even 50 per cent sheep production will simply become unviable for most of us.
“The ministers at the meeting representing the UK government just don’t seem to get it. They admit that the sheep sector is the most exposed and say that, in the event of no deal, mechanisms for supporting the sheep industry are in place.
“What is the budget and when would it kick in? Surely it is an admission of failure that there needs to be mechanisms to mitigate the effects of Brexit?”
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday, the BBC’s Nick Robinson asked Mr Eustice whether the UK government would have “no choice” but to impose tariffs on food coming in, if lamb entering the EU faced similar taxes.
“We publish our own tariff schedule, so we do have a choice,” Mr Eustice said.
“We could suspend tariffs in a number of areas. But actually the right thing to do would be put in place those tariffs on imports.
“Although it has a significant impact on producers because, as you said, in areas like lamb and beef it’s around 40 per cent – or sometimes higher – the impact on consumer prices tends to be much lower.
“The modelling suggests probably 3.4 per cent increase in prices, if you were to apply all those tariffs on the actual consumer basket.”
Mr Eustice was then asked if he could “look someone in the eye” and say ‘I know the price of your shopping has gone up, but don’t worry, we’re now a sovereign nation.’
He replied: “Yes – because sovereignty isn’t just an abstract concept. It’s also about good governance.
“EU membership comes at the cost of bad governance. The real prize of leaving the EU is to regain that ability to govern effectively.”