'Back door' tariff free imports into Northern Ireland could see Welsh farmers take legal action against U.K. government

Farmers in Wales are threatening to issue legal proceedings against the U.K. government if it facilitates "back door" tariff free imports into Northern Ireland after Brexit.

The threat of potential legal action was announced at a meeting of the Farmers' Union of Wales (F.U.W.) earlier this week.

The Farmers' Union of Wales is threatening the British government with legal action should it allow tariff free trade across the Irish border.

The Farmers' Union of Wales is threatening the British government with legal action should it allow tariff free trade across the Irish border.

Since draft import tariff rates and the proposal to allow tariff-free imports from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland were published in March, we have written repeatedly to Secretaries of State underlining the damage that those low rates would cause to Welsh agriculture, as well as raising concerns in numerous meetings," said F.U.W. president, Glyn Roberts.

Mr. Roberts said the the F.U.W. would be keeping a close eye on how the British government will enforce customs checks.

"We have also queried the legality of setting tariffs at zero on the Irish land border, and highlighted the likelihood that this would open a back-door to smuggling onto the mainland unless customs controls at ports such as Liverpool are enforced rigidly," said Mr. Roberts.

Mr Roberts said that without such controls, products such as Irish beef, which should be subject to tariffs when entering Wales, England or Scotland, could cross from Northern Ireland to ports such as Liverpool tariff-free.

“That would have a devastating impact on U.K. farmers given we would be subject to full tariffs being charged on our own exports, and it would also open a back-door to tariff-free imports from parts of the E.U. other than the Republic.”

Mr. Roberts also expressed fears that the U.K. government may not be ready to enforce obligations under World Trade Organisation rules which would become active should the U.K. leave the E.U. on October 31, 2019 without a deal.

“We have already discussed with others the possibility of legal action if this happens and we are confident that it would be an open-and-shut case.

“The obvious way around this is to ensure that we do not leave the E.U. without a deal, as continues to be threatened by the Prime Minister despite the legislation that has been put in place to prevent this happening.”