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Nearly four years on from the referendum, we still don’t know what Brexit looks like

Almost four years on from the referendum, we still don’t know whether farmers will be able to sell into the EU market or if they’ll be undercut by substandard imports, says Deirdre Brock, SNP spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Here we are, then, out of the EU. Kind of.

 

We’ve left but not really, no longer able to influence the decisions, but still subject to the rules.

 

That will last for 11 months to let the UK Government and the EU Commission negotiate the first trade deal.

 

Except the end of June / beginning of July offers the UK Government the option of asking for an extension of this negotiating (or transition) period, so it may be longer.

 

We do, of course, have the Prime Minister’s promise that he’ll die in a ditch rather than extend things – or was that an earlier deadline – but it might still happen.

 

So now we’re all Brexity and free – free of any idea what happens next.

 

Sure

 

No-one in Government seems very sure what they want the regulatory system to look like, never mind how much chance there is of it happening.

 

I’ve kept asking about a system for the management of agri-food imports and exports with EU countries, and I did get George Eustice to tell me: “Defra has built and tested a new import notification system and is in the final testing phase of a new online system for processing Export Health Certificates.

 

“Both of these could be used after the implementation period, if required, to ensure trade continues.”

 

Marvellous – can we see either of them, George? Maybe folk working on imports and exports would like to kick the tyres a bit to see how it works.

 

Reassurance

 

Come to think of it, farmers might like some reassurance that their feed and crop treatments will get through customs and their finished products can get to market.

 

Nearly four years after the vote, it would be handy to have some kind of clarity and I’ll press them on it during the Agriculture Bill’s passage through Parliament.

 

Yes, the Agriculture Bill – you might remember it from such programmes as the Agriculture Bill 2019.

 

We’re doing it all again because there was an election and everything that was nearly done got thrown out.

 

We’ll have to go through the arguments about whether farm payments should be for food production or ‘public goods’ all over again, as well as all the rest of it.

 

Hard

 

The hard thing is we’ll finish that and still not know whether sanitary and phytosanitary standards on imports will be maintained.

 

We won’t know about animal welfare standards on imports either.

 

For consumers, that’s a question of how good the food in their shopping baskets is.

 

For farmers, it might be a question of whether their businesses stay viable in the face of poor quality but inexpensive imports.

 

Aye, Brexit’s here and it’ll do none of us much good.

 

Deirdre can be found tweeting at @DeirdreBrock

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