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Government will fight to keep food cheap after no deal, even if it bankrupts farmers

Food shortages and price rises have brought down many a regime, so our Government will fight to keep food cheap after a no-deal Brexit, no matter what the consequences for UK agriculture, says Cheshire dairy farmer Phil Latham.

Our new PM, full of vim, vigour, passion and pride in Britain, puffed up with his delusions of Churchillian attributes, is trying to call the EU’s bluff.

 

When he says we will leave on October 31 come what may, he’s gambling with our future.

 

His gamble is that if we don’t get favourable terms for leaving without some of the previous preconditions, he’ll jump off the ‘Brexit cliff’, clutching a red briefcase with ‘No-Deal Exit’ stamped on it.

 

I wonder what the EU leaders will say.

 

I can’t see them saying much, apart from ‘we’ve told you what will happen if you jump, jump if you must, jump if that’s what your people want, but there will be some fairly predictable consequences if you do’.

 

No-one campaigned for this Brexit scenario.

 

Play out

 

I’m looking forward to watching it play out though. We’ll see if he can pull this off in his dream job, with the full weight of the world watching.

 

Cream rises to the top, as they say, so you never know. But then again, so does the crust on a slurry lagoon and we all know what lies beneath that. Only time will tell.

 

A deal where we enjoy free and frictionless trade with ‘our European friends and partners’ would mean continuity for business, and I think a fair amount of relief and certainty for everyone, but no deal would be very different.

 

Scale brings its own rewards, and leaving the EU simply creates a new competitor for us in global markets.

 

I think whatever is agreed will be vastly inferior to our membership within the EU.

 

Leaving without a deal will be complicated by the Irish border, possibly setting in motion the eventual break-up of the United Kingdom.

 

Cushion

 

It means no transition to adapt, trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, and facing up to the harsh reality and volatility of commodity prices without the cushion of subsidies.

 

The WTO tariffs are set for EU imports of food and they are there to see. To access these markets, we’ll have to discount our prices to farmers to remain competitive.

 

Our Government has already published our no-deal tariff schedule and we’re not going apply reciprocal tariffs to food imports from the EU.

 

This isn’t surprising.

 

Former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King has already said there are only 10 days’ worth of fresh food in the UK at any one time, and we’ll need frictionless borders or delays will cause gaps on the shelves in supermarkets.

 

Toxic

 

Gaps may cause short-term price spikes here, but in the medium-term they will be filled. A shortage in food supply coupled with price rises will cause a toxic mess that’s been the undoing of many regimes, so we’ll let the food come in as long as it’s cheap and keep every tummy full at an affordable price.

 

The political imperative to do this will vastly exceed concerns for the relatively small voting constituency involved in agriculture.

 

We’re spread thinly, and in the great scheme of things with abundant global food production, we don’t really matter except to our families and friends.

 

I do hope Boris’ blag pays off, because we need a deal. I’m afraid I think the outlook looks rather grim without one.

 

Phil can be found tweeting at @PhilLatham


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