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To farmers calling for a no-deal Brexit, I say one thing: Be careful what you wish for

It is remarkable that after all the warnings from the NFU, and even leaver Michael Gove, about how a no-deal Brexit will affect agriculture, some farmers are clamouring for it, says Leicestershire arable and beef farmer Joe Stanley.

There’s a striking adage attributed to the Roman poet Ovid: ‘time is the devourer of all things’.

 

The 33 months since the Brexit referendum have certainly disappeared in a blur, and consumed in their passing most of the nation’s stock of good will, and good humour.

 

From Westminster to Welshpool, Edinburgh to Enniskillen, patience is exhausted; tempers flare.

 

The Farmers Guardian’s own inimitable Abi Kay recently posted a Twitter poll asking British farmers the question: ‘Do you want your MP to vote for the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement when/if it comes back to Parliament?’

 

 

Now. Consider the revelations of recent months. At NFU conference in February, Defra Secretary of State and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove announced: “It is critically important that every decision maker in London…understands what a no deal would involve for British farmers.

 

“No one can be blithe or blasé about the consequences…if we leave without a deal then there will be significant costs to our economy – and in particular to farming and food production”.

 

We’ve learned if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, our European partners intend to levy the full spread of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs on British food.

 

Conversely, our Government has revealed it intends to levy only partial reciprocal tariffs on food imports, and none at all on cereals, fruit, vegetables and eggs.

 

Northern Ireland will have no protections.

 

Depressing

 

With our excess production unable to be sold competitively abroad, it’ll remain in the domestic market, depressing prices across all commodities.

 

If sterling continues its slide following a no-deal, imported inputs and machinery will increase in cost – again – overnight.

 

This week, the Industry Minister Richard Harrington resigned to work against a no-deal, describing it as ‘a giant economic experiment championed by a small minority of the economics profession, a small minority of the Conservative Party, and a small minority of the country’.

 

None of these people have a care for you, the British farmer.

 

Yet – and despite the NFU describing a no-deal scenario as ‘catastrophic’ for its members –fully 43 per cent of respondents to Ms Kay’s survey preferred ‘no-deal’ to the relative certainty of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

 

Reality

 

Yes, the binary survey question precludes us from gauging how many voted ‘no’ in the hope of a second referendum or revocation of Article 50 (and yes, the agreement is far inferior to EU membership) but it’s past time we grasped reality.

 

This Government is determined to deliver Brexit: whatever has gone before, as an industry we must now unite around the certain knowledge that ‘no-deal’ (the default outcome currently scheduled for April 12) serves only our competitors, and our own Government is unwilling to aid us.

 

Speak to your MP, and whatever your thoughts on the EU, tell them how damaging crashing out would be for your business.

 

And to those still hoping for a ‘Hard Brexit’, another adage: Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

 

Joe can be found tweeting at @JoeWStanley


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