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Brexit is stealing the limelight, but Ministers need to focus on day-to-day farm matters

Brexit is the focus of Defra’s attention, but Ministers need to stop ignoring day-to-day matters which are important to farmers, says Deidre Brock, SNP spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Whenever there is some almighty spectacle, it distracts folk, takes their attention, hides what else might be important.

 

There’s probably some evolutionary explanation for it that made sense for survival at some point, but it can make things dangerous in the modern world.

 

Everyone is staring at Brexit, in fascination, dread, awe, horror, fear. A few are staring in hope, expectation, and belief in a sunny upland.

 

There’s just not enough attention being paid to other things that matter.

 

Carcase splitting in sheep, for example, continues to cost farmers after it’s been deemed unnecessary.

 

Needed

 

Ministers in the UK Government have not introduced the simple piece of legislation – a statutory instrument – that’s needed.

 

A farmer told me this and pointed out the EU regulations had changed, so I asked questions about it and all I got in return was a promise to consult.

 

The UK Agriculture Bill, once praised by ex-Defra Secretary Michael Gove as a great new era for English farming and the great solution for Scottish farming if we’d only accept it, has disappeared without trace.

 

So has the Fisheries Bill, and both of these, we were told, were absolutely essential before we left the EU.

 

Defra still has barnfuls of statutory instruments to get through Parliament before Brexit, but we haven’t seen them yet and the new UK Government says it is determined to leave on Halloween.

 

Joke

 

There really should be a joke about Halloween and Government policy there, but no-one’s in the mood for that.

 

Defra isn’t the only department with a backlog, but Defra does the food supply and it’s not just farmers who should be worried.

 

There’s little or no provision for the import and export of animal feed, fertilisers or pesticides – the stuff we need for food production to keep moving.

 

And there’s naff all provision for the export of finished product or the import of food and drink.

 

We don’t have enough vets to certify animal health for export and we don’t have enough customs officers to process imports.

 

Bets

 

Bookies have started taking bets on what foods will be rationed first.

 

Seriously, it has come to this – Government Ministers ignoring the necessary grind of Government for the excitement of ‘political events’.

Livelihoods are at risk from increased cost, lost markets and lack of available raw materials. Lives could be blighted because there isn’t food to support people.

 

Brexit might seem like a great adventure for some politicians determined to have their page in history, but it’s turning into a pure-breed disaster for far too many of the rest of us.

 

There are still some fights to be fought and some of us have the heart for it, but it’s looking like a bumpy ride ahead.

 

I guess we’d all better buckle up.

 

Deidre can be found tweeting at @DeidreBrock

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