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From the editor: Trump’s trade aggression makes Brexit outlook even more complex

These feel like strange times for UK agriculture. While prices have rallied in many sectors, with the sheep sector currently the big winner, the longer term view for agricultural businesses becomes more clouded as EU negotiations continue and global political debates intensify.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

Less than 300 days away from the formal Brexit leave date, the long term stakes for the industry continue to ratchet up as the Government fights toxic internal battles fed by Ministers seemingly more interested in their own status, rather than that of the country. You could even start to feel sorry for Theresa May, such are the challenges she faces.

 

Beyond these shores, global geopolitics are reaching levels of semi-hysteria as US President Donald Trump slaps tariffs for steel and aluminium on supposed allies such as Canada, laying the blame for the action on the latter’s protectionist dairy regime.

 

His summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un may have given Mr Trump the leading man status he seeks, but his capricious temperament on matters such as global trade compound the difficulties the beleaguered Mrs May has when it comes to establishing new trading partnerships.

 

Brexit has split the country, not to mention the farming community, and the stark reality is she must now seek to establish new trade deals in an era of unprecedented economic nationalism and protectionism, when even previously ‘special relationships’ become strained.

 

It is one thing for agricultural leaders to make positive noises about supposed investment intentions (see page 1), yet the reality is they remain only expressions of interest at a time when many are seeking to actively push on. As outgoing president of the Confederation of Small Businesses, Paul Drechsler, said this week, the ongoing Brexit hiatus is seeing millions of pounds of investment head overseas as uncertainty over the economy dampens investor confidence.

 

Going back to the sheep industry as an example, a bad trade deal which hampered export could send the current sky high prices in to reverse as easily as they went up. Such scenarios make the need for clarity from Government essential, especially as agriculture works on longer timeframes than many.

 

And finally, next week sees one of the biggest farming shows take place in Edinburgh.


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