The PM must negotiate a three to six-month adjustment period as part of any EU trade deal, so farmers have time to prepare for the new relationship, says Mike Rumbles, North East Scotland MSP.
With Covid vaccines now rolling out across the country I, like many people, hope 2021 will be a period of recovery and new opportunities for our rural economy.
The UK Government is attempting to finalise some form of a deal with the 27 countries of the European Union before the end of the transition period on December 31.
It is tempting to think we are entering the final stages of the Brexit process and we can finally move on.
In January this year, at the very start of the transition period, I wrote for the Brexit hub that both our Governments had their work cut out to develop new policy for Scottish agriculture, prepare farm businesses for the changes to come and lay the foundations for new trade arrangements with the EU and dozens of other countries around the world.
All within eleven months.
Even without the unprecedented challenges caused by Covid-19, meeting those requirements would have been difficult.
It now appears our Government had something completely different in mind. Do very little for eleven months and hope it will all work out in 2021.
Uncertainty is bad for business at any time, but the combination of battling the impact of coronavirus restrictions alongside having to cope with the huge challenge of complying with new trading procedures at very short notice, could be very damaging for our rural economy.
There is no deal better than the one we already had with the EU, and that is why the Liberal Democrats have urged the Prime Minister to negotiate the reasonable and practical measure of a three to six-month adjustment period in the EU trade deal, in order to save jobs and businesses.
By slowly phasing in new rules, regulations and procedures, our farm businesses would have the breathing space they need to prepare and adapt.
The UK would also have time to prepare for the logistical burden of customs checks at the border.
In the US, President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear there will be no trade deal with the US if the Prime Minister does anything to jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement.
Securing a new deal with the United States may be anything but straight forward, and it would be reckless to abandon or alienate our trade partners all across Europe for no other reason than to meet an arbitrary deadline.