Farmers are in for a Brexit storm, but the UK’s world-leading work on food traceability and animal welfare will give them the strength to weather it until the sun shines again, says Matt Legge, a sheep, beef and pig farmer from the Isle of Wight.
Has anyone tried turning Parliament off and back on again?
It’s easy to get an impression that British politics has gone mad, and the cliff edge scenario is getting closer, but does anyone have an idea of the reality of this unprecedented scenario?
The Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be the only person in Westminster to maintain a thick enough skin to weather the tirade of challenges and setbacks we have witnessed so far in the Brexit process.
She has been sent into another negotiation with an uphill challenge and her hands tied behind her back.
While UK farmers are desperate to hang on to the vital £13 billion in trade we currently do with the EU, what is there left which can appeal to the other 27 members we can use to get a better deal?
The EU negotiators will have seen the UK Parliament is moving to block no deal, so why would they move on their position?
It seems to me this could be likened to a stockman trying to sell a bull to someone who doesn’t want to buy it, with the buyer knowing the stockman can’t take it home. It’s a job to negotiate that one.
In reality, the likelihood of Parliament supporting a deal seems slim. Is this a move by politicians to block Brexit entirely, or are some MPs happy to throw us off the no-deal cliff?
We have seen the Secretary of State announce the proposed tariff protection on imports, but as yet, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs our exports may face could be crippling for many.
There are, however, many positives for UK agriculture. We have always been good at what we do, but we continue to get better at it. At the same time, we are learning to tell our story.
More and more we are finding ways to demonstrate that UK agriculture is world-leading. Work on anti-microbial resistance, environmental husbandry, farm-to-fork traceability and farm welfare are just a few of the areas where we can show this.
This sort of success is what will secure the future business we need. The consumer is increasingly interested in the story of their food.
This means we can not only secure a bigger share of the home market for food, but is also the platform for building trade agreements beyond Brexit.
I was asked the question, earlier this week, what the NFU Brexit team will do after the end of March. I replied, suggesting they go and read the Withdrawal Agreement.
In reality, a structured exit with a deal will lead to years more work for this team and the policy formers in Defra. With a no-deal, I think the job security will be pretty solid for life!
The end of March will mark a change, however it pans out, but this is only the start. Beyond this date, our own Parliament will have the ability to do more to support our industry.
Funding for research and development, farming and processing infrastructure and technology and innovation are just some of the areas where support can be shown as a good investment.
With the right tool kit, our industry can and will prove our worth, so we need to keep the pressure on Government to shape the policies which will allow us to feed our nation.
There are many changes happening on farms now, and change will continue to happen in the months and years to come.
I don’t think even Charles Darwin could have foreseen Brexit, but one of his quotes is pinned firmly to the farm office wall: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.
I think we might be in for a bit of a storm, but tie the roof down and bolt the doors as the sun is sure to shine again tomorrow.
Matt can be found tweeting at @Duxmore