Italy’s farmers have pleaded with Britain not to destroy the country’s economy by pushing ahead with a hard Brexit.
Confagricoltura, the General Confederation of Italian Agriculture, said the UK’s departure from the EU would have a devastating effect on the country’s farming sector and the economy as a whole, which rakes in €3.5billion a year from Britain.
They said “all spending programmes” across every country in the EU would be hit when Britain quits the bloc.
In a meeting with the European Council, Massimiliano Giansanti, who heads Confagricoltura, made his case for a soft Brexit and the need for a transition period.
He said: “Without shared rules, Brexit would have a heavy impact on the economy and the agricultural sector.
“Because in less than a year the United Kingdom would become a third country and trade with the EU would be subject to the tariffs set by the World Trade Organisation.
“Moreover, the denominations of origin and quality would no longer be recognised and protected. And there will be a hole in the EU budget that would jeopardise the continuity of all spending programs in the remaining 27 member states.
“We can only hope that the hypothesis of a hard Brexit is eventually avoided. “I believe this is the common interest of entrepreneurs in the EU and the United Kingdom.”
EU tariffs on the Italian food sector range from 10 to 30 percent with Britain ploughing billions into Italy’s economy, which would change dramatically should the UK seek a hard Brexit.
Favoured by avid Brexiteers, a hard Brexit would see the UK scrap full access to the single market and customs union with the bloc, giving Britain full control over its borders and opening the floodgates for new trade deals with other countries.
It would also mean the UK could fall back on World Trade Organisation of trade with its former EU counterparts, in this case Italy.
A soft Brexit would on the other hand see the UK remain close to the EU and its existing laws, tariffs and regulations.
Today, Prime Minister Theresa May presented Brussels with her much-anticipated white paper, which outlined her desire to keep Britain in the single market.
But the paper was rejected by senior Brussels officials in a fresh attack on Mrs May.
Should she fail to deliver Brexit, she could be forced out of office.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.