MPs must vote to extend Article 50 to protect UK farming from a no-deal Brexit if the PM’s deal cannot get through, says Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion and Plaid Cymru’s agriculture spokesman in Westminster.
The past week has brought un-seasonally warm weather for vast swathes of the country.
The heat was to be felt in Westminster, where the Brexit deliberations reached boiling point over whether an extension to Article 50 should be sought in order to avoid leaving the EU without an agreement on March 29.
It is nothing short of a scandal that mere weeks from Brexit day, there is still no firm idea about the course ahead.
It is often stated that this uncertainty damages business: sapping confidence, rendering forward planning futile and delaying investment.
The impact is even more acute for agriculture, an industry where the capacity to postpone investment decisions and absorb volatility is limited.
Over the last few months, while Parliament has dithered, farmers have invested time and resources into crops and livestock, without any clarity on the prices they will receive post-Brexit.
It is recklessness of the highest order to keep the industry in the dark about whether it will be able to export to the UK’s largest trading partner in a matter of weeks, and on what terms.
This is a sobering reality, and should focus the mind of every MP in the House of Commons.
Despite the recent turbulence, a semblance of clarity appears to have emerged. Following the Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday, the week commencing March 11 now assumes a defining importance.
On March 12 the Prime Minister’s deal will be voted upon, and should it fall – as is likely – MPs will vote the following day to decide whether to support leaving the EU without a deal.
A similar vote was held earlier this year, when MPs decisively ruled out no deal.
Moreover, the Government confirmed preparations for such an outcome are woefully behind schedule.
Only six of the forty rollover trade agreements have been signed, while contingency planning for a third of critical projects remains unfinished.
The Government expects tariffs of 70 per cent on beef exports, and 45 per cent on lamb in the event of no-deal, and given that 92 per cent of Welsh lamb is exported to the EU, it is inconceivable that any MP from Wales could entertain such an outcome.
When Parliament votes against leaving without a deal on March 13, MPs will be asked to consider whether to extend Article 50.
The debate will no doubt be fierce, the arguments divisive, but given that a no-deal Brexit has the potential to devastate Welsh rural communities, and that preparations to mitigate its impact are incomplete, a delay is now the only responsible option.
We cannot afford any more hot-headedness. It is time for MPs to do all that is necessary to avoid the disruption of a no deal Brexit.
Ben can be found tweeting at @BenMLake