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Over The Farm Gate

Over The Farm Gate

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LAMMA 2021

LAMMA 2021

If a simple farm boy like me could see that the Chequers agreement was flawed, how come Mrs May missed it?

It is said that a week is a long time in politics; in that case a year in politics must be a lifetime, says Neil Farmer, an arable and sheep farmer from the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border.

It is around a year since Mrs May’s Chequers agreement was first proposed.


I said at the time that it would not be accepted by the Leave supporters, but what I did not realise was the degree to which it would not be accepted having been defeated in parliament three times.


If a simple farm boy like me could see straight away that the Chequers agreement was flawed, how come Mrs May and all her advisers could not see it?


In Mrs May’s case I believe it was her stubbornness, and maybe she would not listen to her advisors, but a year on where has it got her? Nowhere.



We are still in Europe and Mrs May will stand down as Prime Minister next week.


What happens then? The new leader, whoever it is, is going to be faced by the same problems as the old leader.


Will he be able to come up with a replacement for Mrs May’s Chequers agreement that will get through Parliament and that the European Union will accept? I somehow doubt it.

As soon as the new leader’s bum hits the Prime Minister’s office chair, it will be time for the summer recess, so nothing will be done until late September, or, as anyone in agriculture would say, ‘after harvest’.



Then what happens? It is party conference time, and that takes three weeks so now we are well into October, or, ‘halfway through drilling’.


That gives Boris or Jeremy around two weeks to negotiate a new deal, get all 27 European Countries to accept it and then get it through parliament with a majority.


It is a bit like us finishing drilling by October 31 in a wet autumn – it ain’t gonna happen.


That only leaves one option if we are to leave Europe by October 31 – no-deal.


Otherwise we are going to have to ask the EU for another extension.


“Please, Mr Barnier, can we have another extension?” – it sounds like a line from Oliver Twist.


The answer may well be: “Yes, boy, how about March 31 2020?”, right in the middle of lambing.



Last Autumn a lot of sheep farmers were concerned about the lamb price after Brexit in March 2019, which may have affected the breeding ewe trade last year.


Now, with the new Brexit deadline looming, the ewe trade may well be reduced again this year. Even some auctioneers are commenting about the ‘Brexit Effect’, so any deadline extension is just going to prolong the agony.

We really need a decision one way or the other, to get rid of this uncertainty.


The smart money is on Boris Johnson to become the new Prime minister. If he fails to leave Europe by October 31, it has been suggested that he may call a snap General Election running on a no-deal ticket.



Many polls are predicting this would result in an outright majority for Boris and the Tories and with good reason.


Conservative supporters who voted for The Brexit Party in the recent meaningless European elections will flood back to the Tories, and die hard Labour voters who voted Leave in the referendum – and there are many – may be tempted to vote Tory and the promise of Brexit.


Another interesting suggestion I have heard recently is that rather than the UK paying £39 billion to the EU as part of any deal if it is ever agreed, the EU owes the UK nearer to £70 billion as a repayment for money the UK has paid into European coffers and has be spent in other EU countries, which should be considered a loan.


I do not suppose Mr Barnier would like that suggestion but it is a fair point.



David Cameron and George Osborne’s promise of the Brexit referendum in their 2015 Tory manifesto was clearly a desperate attempt to fight off the threat from UKIP.


Once they won a majority, they were in a hurry to make good on that promise. I believe they thought it would be a walkover for the Remain vote, and never once considered Leave would win or the many complications that would arise from a Leave result.


In my view their lack of preparation was bordering on negligent.


It is a good thing politicians are not in charge of managing farms because if they were, I am sure they would not buy any tups or they would drill a field without any seed in the drill.


The whole Leave/Remain situation has been handled so badly. Dealings with the EU or The Common Market as it was have always been difficult.

The argument over The Maastrict Treaty and the Single Currency ripped John Major’s government apart and allowed Tony Blair’s New Labour into power.



Tony gave into Europe on every issue including giving back the rebate Mrs Thatcher had negotiated in the hope that he would be offered a cushy European number at some point in the future.


The Blair government’s eagerness to give into Europe on many issues must have helped give rise to UKIP and ultimately helped bring about the 2016 referendum.


Previous to that, there was the original joining of the Common Market and then the 1975 referendum, as well as Mrs Thatcher’s ‘hand-bagging’ of Europe, as already mentioned.


It goes on. A week is a long time in politics – it seems to me that our Government has been arguing over Europe all of my lifetime.

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