My latest Farmers Guardian Article - Dangers of a No Deal Brexit
Well finally the Agriculture Bill has begun its journey through Parliament. This is a Bill which we have been promised will radically change the way in which farmers work the land in a post Brexit Britain.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that no one, including the Prime Minister herself, seems to have any idea what post Brexit Britain will look like. European treaties are, of course, notoriously difficult to negotiate, but even so we are well beyond the eleventh hour and we are running out of time to get a deal in place. As many people predicted, it is the seemingly intractable problem thrown up by the need to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic that is preventing progress. Avoiding the establishment of such a border requires the UK to stay in the customs union and the single market, an outcome loathed by hard line Brexiteers.
Worryingly, the Government appears to be preparing seriously now for a no deal scenario and a disorderly fallout from the EU by the UK. Already work has started on turning the M26 into a lorry park; even with a deal, the predicted extra time required to process a lorry is a concern. But without a deal the queues could be catastrophic, so much so that we hear of plans for the culling of livestock caught up in such a situation.
In the latest set of notices published by Government we are starting to see just how catastrophic a no deal might be for the farming sector. For example, bureaucracy and costs will increase in relation to exporting animal feed and breeding animals for export, key activities for the sector.
In the case of animal feed exporters will be required to have a representative within the EU state they wish to export to. While some larger exporters may have branches already established abroad, for smaller companies this will mean extra costs.
For the equine sector; a no deal could be a disaster, with the UK being treated as a third party country. This would necessitate Export Health Certificates to move equines, even on a temporary basis, to a EU country. EU certification would also require additional action from vets to confirm absence of disease, not only requiring more planning from the owner but additional cost in the region of £200 to £500 per animal.
The sad reality is that we are now approaching the sharp end of the Brexit process, with no sign of significant progress towards a deal. The likelihood of a no deal is increasing by the day and the uncertainty is affecting many farmers on a daily basis.
I don’t believe anyone voted for this mess and what is becoming very clear is that there is democratic legitimacy in placing the final decision on Brexit in the hands of the British people. Whether we have a deal or no deal at all, the outcome of two years of negotiation falls far short of what people believed they were voting for in July 2016. On that basis, let’s support the People’s Vote.