Time is running out to negotiate a Brexit agreement which is good for the farming industry and the smart money must now be on ‘no deal’, says George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA).
The short-lived backslapping which followed the early July Cabinet summit at Chequers was akin to congratulating the players in the England football team on agreeing a colour for their World Cup kit before getting on the pitch to face any opposing teams.
That is not to downplay the importance of finding a position which garnered the maximum degree of consensus possible around the Cabinet table.
Yet having taken two years to reach what, in the end, was an entirely sensible position for negotiations with the EU, we needed to see an end to factional splits within the Government and instead utilising every ounce of energy towards delivering a good outcome for farming and other sectors of the UK economy.
The Cabinet detente was brief. We can only hope that the high-profile resignations which followed do not mark the start of a more significant implosion within Government.
That would be seriously debilitating and undermining to our Brexit negotiators. They are being sent into battle armed only with their trusty White Papers knowing full well that they could be recalled at any time to be replaced with an instruction that no deal is better than a bad deal.
For such a time as this, can there be anything worse than no deal? No deal means no transition, no frictionless trade, no solution to the Irish border, no settlement on citizen’s rights.
So how will the remaining members of the European Union respond? Doubtless they will still be as keen as ever to take their long, August break untroubled by any great sense of urgency to find a settlement which fits with the needs of the UK political timetable.
Back home there is much talk of votes of confidence, Conservative Party leadership elections, an autumn General Election and even another referendum.
However, unless it is repealed – which seems unlikely – Section 20 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 determines that we will no longer be part of the EU at 11:00pm on March 29, 2019.
With such a hard stop the smart money must be on ‘no deal’ and our farm businesses must prepare for that to be the case.