I started the year as a new beef farmer cautiously optimistic about my post-Brexit future, but our politicians have made us a global laughing stock in the meantime, says Rob Drysdale, from West Sussex.
Great British Beef Week #GBBW was last week. It happened to start on April Fools’ Day, and the weather swung from a balmy 20°C to 10°C with potential for snow in large parts of the UK.
Just your usual start to April? It probably would be if it wasn’t for the mess the country finds itself in with regard to Brexit.
March 29 should have been a momentous day for me: I left the veterinary business I started nearly 20 years before and was looking to the future as a beef farmer post-Brexit.
When I decided to hang up my armlength gloves, the date looked auspicious, if a little daunting.
Little did I know only 50 per cent of my plans for the March 29 would work out, and with various dates currently being discussed for our departure I think it is probably best I move on with my farming venture as best I can in the interim.
How many other farmers are in the same boat? How many other businesses?
When I last wrote, in early January, I was cautiously optimistic. Currently I am close to absolute pessimism.
What has brought about this change in my mind set?
Since November we have seen prevarication, in-fighting and politicking taken to another level not just by our current Government but, it often seems, the whole House of Commons and beyond.
The behaviour of our political parties is quickly becoming the butt of jokes across Europe and further afield.
When Donald Trump deigns to proffer an opinion, our politicians should realise the predicament they are in.
We had a German visitor last week who remarked how much of a mess Brexit appeared.
She explained many Germans see Britain as being too much in the hands of its politicians, who seemed less concerned over the public feeling than their own agendas.
I learned Germany rarely has a majority Government, so although it appears to the outside world that Chancellor Merkel rules absolutely, this is far from the case.
The current German Cabinet consists of a Grand Coalition – basically a coalition between the two main parties: Merkel’s CDU (liberal conservatives) and SDP (socialist democrats).
This forces politicians to work towards a compromise, creating a consensus for a middle-ground outcome.
Perhaps if Theresa May had set off in July 2017 with compromise in her head, this would’ve encouraged a coalition in the UK which could have given power to our negotiations with the EU27.
But ‘ifs and buts and maybes,’ as my Gran would say, ‘are not how the world was built.’
We are where we are, and I do not want to write this piece with any political leanings, but this stalemate cannot carry on.
Parliament, the Government and the Opposition must come together to prevent a complete stall on Brexit – and anyone wanting another public vote is effectively calling for an end to the democratic process in this country.
Since November, the price we receive for our beef has dropped by 10-20 per cent depending on the contract and the specification.
Oversupply has been blamed by the processors, and that could be feasible when taking the Irish production numbers alongside our own.
Lack of demand has been another reason. Brexit yet another.
In a country where we have 65-70 per cent self-sufficiency for beef, I would rather consider the drop in price to be strategic as much as any of the other reasons given: bring down the price before any Brexit to minimise any uplift which could come from a deal or no-deal situation?
But then again I am feeling pessimistic at the moment.
Rob can be found tweeting at @robdvet