A CUMBRIAN sheep farmer claims any future increase in New Zealand or Australian lamb imports after Brexit would be damaging to the country’s sheep farming industry.

Eddie Eastham, chairman of the National Sheep Association (NSA) policy and technical committee, says there is a danger that the UK government in seeking wider economic gain could forge new free trade agreements which would comprise this country’s own sheep industry.

Mr Eastham, who farmed in the Lake District for several decades and now finishes bought-in-stock at Longburgh, near Carlisle, says: “Any increased volume of lamb from Australia or New Zealand placed on the UK market will be damaging to our sheep farming economy. This would have a negative knock on effect for rural economies generally, the environment and social/cultural communities.”

He added: “When we leave the EU, current trading arrangements with these Pacific countries will no longer apply. Our concern here is that possible future trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand could see an increased amount of sheep meat imported into the UK.”

He added: “The UK and NZ sheep farming sectors have historically had a positive relationship and worked collaboratively on marketing intelligence, research and development and knowledge exchange.

“However, we recognise the sensitivities of trade and both sides have had robust conversations when trade is having a damaging effect on our market.

“We understand the enthusiasm of the UK government to agree trade relations with these countries but we urge caution, and consideration of the impact on any of our sectors and industries.”