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Brexit is like white water rafting with a cox who’s fallen overboard

The Brexit process is like rafting down a river with lots of obstacles to be navigated. But unlike most white water rafting trips, the cox, there to steer the raft to calmer waters, has fallen overboard, says Cheshire dairy farmer Phil Latham.

The Brexit experience is, I think, very different for those who voted to leave.

 

For those of us who voted to remain, the process is following a fairly predictable course where leave voters discover they were not all voting for the same thing, even if they knew what their own version of Brexit might be.

 

They are confused about the journey they have undertaken as the destination appears not to be to their liking after all.

 

As a younger man, I liked adventurous travel and I think it taught me a few things. Firstly, my trips to Croatia during the break-up the former Yugoslavia taught me about the dangers which come with nationalism and petty tribalism.

 

It doesn’t take much to motivate people to do desperately awful things and I feel some politicians are playing with fire.

 

Influence

 

The second thing is that while you may be on the same journey as others, your own circumstances can heavy influence your experience of it.

 

I used to love white water rafting and have been lucky enough to take on some of the wildest rivers.

 

Each time I looked for a harder river with a higher grade of difficulty, and on one trip in Turkey down the mighty Coruh river, we ended up with just 8 out 18 clients finishing the trip.

 

The 10 mutineers had enough – they had been in the muddy rapids and there is something quite different about being tossed around between boulders while you are in the water as opposed to being buoyant in the raft.

 

One minute you are feeling invincible, the next you are reaching out for help and you never quite know where the boulders are to throw you off balance and out and adrift.

 

Fears

 

If you never fell in, as I didn’t in Turkey, you find it hard to understand why people on the same trip have a different view of the risks and those least exposed to them understand their fears least.

 

For me, Brexit is very much like a wild water trip. We are rafting down the most exciting river, trying to steer for our lives with the future adventures and obstacles to be navigated.

 

But unlike most trips I went on where we had a cox who could steer a path, ours appears to have fallen out, and when she is in the boat she doesn’t quite know where the calm water lies.

 

Farmers who have been buoyed up by CAP payments and cushioned from the volatility of hostile market turbulence have deflated their own raft, making it less stable, and there will be casualties.

 

Survival

 

That’s an odd thing to do if you want to survive, but the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report offers no life vests for our survival and we are running dangerously low on crew.

 

I take no comfort from the messages from Defra. If the NGOs get their way, it appears the destiny for farming is going to be a quiet backwater, quite different from the vibrant and market-related focus that would improve productivity and performance.

 

Perhaps we need to choose new rafts, or perhaps we should start pulling together making a better case to avoid a cheap food policy before it is too late.

 

Phil can be found tweeting at @PhilLatham


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