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Over The Farm Gate

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LAMMA 2021

LAMMA 2021

The nation has already made its mind up - and the verdict is leave

A second referendum would see people voting not on the merits of EU membership, but how our politicians have handled Brexit. It’s time for MPs to start respecting the original vote, says David Handley, Farmers For Action chairman.

Many people had unrealistic expectations of the outcome of the Brexit referendum, among them the pensioner I saw being interviewed on television who complained he thought we should be out of Europe within a week of the vote.


On the other hand, to come this far down the line and find the situation as unresolved and chaotic as ever is something none of us could have expected.


I am still firmly of the opinion that there is a prosperous future for British farming outside the European ring fence.


I believe the high-quality food British farmers produce will encounter a growing and steady demand on world markets – markets which in some cases our EU membership has prevented us reaching.




EU policies have, after all, kept British sheep farmers out of the US market for 20 years, denying them access to a customer base of 327 million - and when I worked in the meat industry I realised how frustrating that situation was to many.


Above all, we shall have freedom to farm as we wish, as we know best what suits our local climates and soils.


We shall no longer be told what to plant, when to plant it and how to produce it by bureaucrats trying to impose one-size-fit-all policies from the Greek mountains to the Scottish highlands, often undertaking the task with minds refreshingly unclouded by any over-familiarity with the practicalities of farming.


This new flexibility, together with the priceless asset of generations of experience, skills and local knowledge, will make the UK a formidable player on the world stage of food production.




We are not, I anticipate, going to be particularly popular in Europe where the CAP budget is being cut by five per cent.


The French claim that allowing for inflation, its actually tantamount to 10 per cent – and Brussels has let it be known it’s all the result of losing the UK’s budgetary input.


Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan made it clear recently that the deal was the best which could be achieved ‘under the circumstances’ – and everyone knew precisely to which circumstances he was referring.


However, far from being able to start work in earnest to forge new trade deals with the rest of the world and open up new export markets, we are still in a mess – and a mess that is getting worse by the day.




The debate over Brexit has been dominated not by rational argument, but by the most disgraceful displays of political back-stabbing, scheming and plotting.


It has become a platform for self-advancement and the promotion of extreme and potentially damaging policies.


The Government was given a clear mandate from the referendum, but politicians on all sides have argued their way into a hell-hole which has destroyed not merely the credibility of the main political parties but of Westminster in general.


This debacle has made us the laughing stock of the world – except the world long since stopped laughing and is now sorrowfully shaking its head over the disintegration of a once-respected institution.




It has damaged business confidence in every sector and is costing us thousands of jobs.


It has played havoc with the value of sterling, adding 20 per cent to the cost of every Briton’s foreign holiday.


Had this been happening in France, the public would have occupied the streets of Paris until the Government came to its senses.


Here, we wait daily and with growing impatience for the latest pronouncement on how this dreadful impasse is to be resolved – with each suggested remedy appearing less credible and practicable than the last.


I don’t want a second referendum.


The nation has already had its say and the message was clear, if by a fairly narrow margin.




If a second referendum were called people’s opinions would in any case be influenced not by their views on our EU membership, but by the disastrous way the issue has been handled since the last one.


I believe the vote would be even more heavily in favour of leaving – just to see an end to the incessant, mind-numbing and increasingly acrimonious Parliamentary debates.


The nation has made its mind up. The verdict is ‘leave’.


I wonder which particular element of that instruction is proving so difficult for politicians to understand – politicians who, I am afraid, I shall find it impossible ever to trust again.

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