Farmers know their livelihoods will be damaged by a no-deal Brexit, so the new Government must do everything in its power to avoid this situation as a matter of urgency, says Labour’s Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman.
We will leave the European Union on October 31,’do or die’, Britain’s new Prime Minister has said.
That deadline is now less than three months away, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit is growing.
For British agriculture, the stakes could not be higher. The farming sector faces disastrous disruption from a no-deal scenario.
While the Government published its tariff schedule to be applied in the event of a no-deal, the NFU has expressed its grave concern that some farming sectors will not be protected under the schedule, namely eggs, cereals, fruit, and vegetables.
Brexit – in any form – must not lead to an undercutting of British food and farming standards, and concerns have been raised that the Government’s current approach will mean that we have an increasing reliance on food produced overseas.
This would amount to an offloading and increasing of the environmental impact of our food production, as well as losing control of the high standards of production and animal welfare that we are so rightly proud of in Britain.
This week, it was reported that the Government is working on a £500 million plan to support farmers in the event of a no-deal.
This is simply too little, too late. Farmers know that their industry and their livelihoods will be damaged by a no-deal, and the new Government has to do everything in its power to avoid this situation by finding a workable solution as a matter of urgency.
Helen Roberts of the National Sheep Association has said that the new Prime Minister is ‘playing Russian roulette with the industry’, and some sheep farmers have voted to take direct action if their jobs and businesses are threatened.
EU sheep meat will face tariffs of nearly 50 per cent, which would make British lamb exports uneconomical, and it has been predicted that no-deal will depress the market rate for lamb by 30 per cent.
This is simply unsustainable for the many sheep farmers that I represent in Cumbria. For these farmers, a no-deal Brexit is in no way a manageable or acceptable outcome.
Mark Drakeford, Labour’s First Minister in Wales, in his first meeting with the new Prime Minister, warned him that Brexit will be catastrophic for Wales, and will decimate the Welsh agricultural sector.
Will Case, who farms in south Cumbria, recently wrote in The Guardian that a no-deal Brexit would put his farm out of business.
He said: “Everything should be fine, but there is a big, dark cloud lurking on the horizon: the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
“This is a threat to everything we do. The uncertainty around Brexit and the prospect of trade tariffs that would cripple our business is a real worry. The future direction of UK-produced food is simply unknown.”
The British people have been promised everything before and during the Brexit process, but the reality becomes clearer by the day.
The selling out of UK agriculture in the promise of cheaper food on supermarket shelves would be a disaster for British farming, food and animal welfare standards, and the environment.
Labour simply will not countenance Britain leaving the EU without a deal in place, and we will be pursuing every avenue to stop this from happening.
We owe it to farmers across the UK to ensure that livelihoods are protected for the long-term, so that British agriculture has the opportunity to flourish, championing high quality produce and playing a vital role in safeguarding our natural environment and ensuring our nation’s food security.
Sue can be found tweeting at @SueHayman1