There has been a lot of political noise in recent weeks, but the realities of Brexit remain unchanged – the only difference being our departure deadline looms ever closer, says Tim Breitmeyer, CLA president.
Ignore the political noise… we’re facing the same questions as before.
Fuelled by a seemingly ever-increasing appetite for political commentary, the public has been bombarded with information on how the two Conservative leadership candidates will approach Brexit.
The last few weeks have seen Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt attempting to out-do each other with ever-more fanciful claims.
We’ve had promises on removing backstops, cutting MPs and civil servants’ summer holidays short, re-hashed technological solutions, and new relief programmes for farmers who might soon be facing tariffs.
Realising the power of social media in reaching out to their party’s supporter base, they have taken tough stances and spoken directly, ensuring their messages are easily digestible.
The 24-hour news channels have carried live speeches almost every morning, while the comment pages in The Times and The Telegraph have been awash with debate around the merits of the respective candidates’ latest positions and announcements on Brexit.
Despite all of this political noise and bluster, the cold, hard reality is this: Nothing has changed.
The clock is still ticking towards Brexit Day on 31 October, the political arithmetic in Parliament – for any deal – remains almost impossible, the Irish border is still a conundrum with no obvious solution and the EU will not offer anything significantly different to what it has before.
These will be the realities facing the new Conservative leader once the process is settled.
No-deal will have consequences for the rural economy, and we need to leave on terms which ensure as free and frictionless trade as possible, as well as access to skills and labour.
While it’s refreshing to, for once, see the unique circumstances of our sector recognised in Jeremy Hunt’s ideas for a relief programme in case of a ‘no-deal’, the reality is we should be focusing all efforts on avoiding this scenario and abruptly cutting off our largest export market overnight.
The only thing which has changed is timing.
We’re now working towards a deadline which is immeasurably more complicated for farmers looking to plan for the year ahead and, having chosen to discard the advice of the EU to ‘not waste this time’, we have taken up much of the extension deciding on who will be the next Conservative Party leader.
We are, once again, running out of time and fast approaching the cliff-edge.