The NFU has emphasised the need for free and frictionless trade with the EU and has called for clarity on what exactly would happen to trade of all agri-food products were the UK to leave the EU without a deal on March 29 2019.

The NFU’s call comes in response to a technical notice just released on organic farming which suggests that the trade of organic food products would face a cliff edge situation after Brexit.

The products would not be allowed into the EU until UK organic certification bodies are officially recognised by the EU Commission – as this stands, this approval could take up to nine months.

The NFU President Minette Batters said that this cliff edge scenario, if applied across the wider UK food supply chain, would be disastrous for farm businesses, the economy and society at large.

She said: “While these notices are an essential part of government’s plans for preparing for all outcomes, they serve as a sobering reminder of what is at stake for farmers in the event of a no deal.

“The technical notice for organic farming is a warning for us on the future of trade of all agri-food products - if all these products were subjected to the same problems in approvals and certification then this could result in effectively a trade embargo on exports to the EU. Not only would this be hugely disruptive but it threatens livelihoods and businesses in the UK.

“The absolute priority for the NFU continues to be that we maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU. Last year 60% of UK food, feed and drink exports were to EU countries and 70% of our imports in these products were from the EU. This trading relationship is worth £45.5bn.

“We believe that a deal is the most likely outcome to the ongoing negotiations between the EU and UK and we urge both sides to find pragmatic solutions to the issues still outstanding between them. A no deal outcome would be the worst possible one for the farming industry.”

The Soil Association views Brexit as an unprecedented challenge to the food and farming sector, with the risks and uncertainty already affecting businesses.

Chris Atkinson, Soil Association head of standards said: “Frictionless trade with the EU is critically important for the food and farming sector. It’s vitally important the UK remains in the customs union and stays aligned with EU standards on food and environment as a minimum. A no deal Brexit is the worst possible scenario. The technical notices published today (23 August 2018) offer no further clarity to businesses and provide neither reassurance nor advice on how to prepare for a potential ‘no deal’ scenario. They confirm the scale of the challenge we face and the vital importance that the UK achieves a workable deal with the EU.

“The information outlined raises concerns that imports and exports to and from the EU may be held up for months. The critical issue of continuing recognition by the EU of the organic status of products certified in the UK is left entirely unresolved by this paper and a similar document that was issued by the EU some months ago. We are also concerned that a new UK-owned imports traceability system to replace the current EU system would need to be in place by 29 March 2019. In our view this is an unrealistic goal within the time frame. Delays could significantly hinder trade."

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP said: “With organic farmers and food companies prevented from exporting to our neighbours, our most sustainable food producers face a serious threat.

“The government will suddenly have to find £3 billion a year to replace EU subsidies that keep farmers in business – but they've only promised this support until 2022. That's a perilous future to offer those working to put food on our tables."