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From the editor: Brexit brinkmanship must not use ag as trade pawn

"What does Brexit mean for me?", farmers ask themselves.

Farmers are constantly asking ’so what does Brexit mean for me?’ It is a blunt and wide ranging question and not one which can be answered with any certainty at this moment in time.

 

The question, however, highlights a salient point, and that is the demand for answers and some form of direction grows as every week passes and the deadline to exiting the EU looms larger.

 

In the past week that question was posed to me by a tenant farmer in his late 50s who had made up his mind that a bad Brexit deal would signal his exit from the industry. There was no bitterness, but without direct payments, which he described as ’a form of housing benefit’ equivalency he used to pay the rent, there would not be the finances to carry on.

 

It highlights again the yawning chasm between the Brexit dream and the Brexit reality, which intensified this week with talk of ’no deals’ and free trade economics and caused more uncertainty for those doing the actual farming.

 

The NFU’s vision document is worthy, expanding as it does on an earlier foray in to Brexit strategy in March this year, but some of its focus on better dissemination of information and data post-Brexit does prompt you to ask whether our levy boards should be doing a better job of that already.

 

Then there is the mood music from the likes of the USA, whose agriculture chief, Sonny Purdue, was in London last week for meetings with the UK Government.

 

Sources in America suggest the US is ’licking its lips’ when it comes to the prospect of greater trade with the UK, and not because they see a future of mutual harmony, but rather the fact the UK could be so desperate for trade links outside the EU it could open the door to hormone beef and chlorinated chicken.

 

The stakes are high and agriculture needs to find a forceful voice to articulate why it matters and why a government which backs away from market intervention may need to give it a helping hand as the sands of trade continue to shift.


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