Several pieces of serious research have shown Scottish farmers and the rural economy would be hit hard by a no-deal Brexit. The UK Government must do everything in its power to avoid this catastrophe, says Richard Lyle, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill.
I can’t believe the summer has gone so quickly since the first time I wrote to you in April this year with my introductory article for the Farmers Guardian on the developments on Brexit here in Scotland and indeed across the United Kingdom.
They say a week’s a long time in politics; four months must be a lifetime in terms of the Brexit process!
We’ve seen political departures in the UK Government in the form of the former Brexit Secretary Rt Hon David Davis MP and we have seen Ministers become Cabinet Secretaries here in Scotland with our excellent Brexit Minister, Michael Russell MSP becoming the new Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations.
Michael has already shown exceptional leadership, including working with the First Minister on ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’, our paper offering a much-needed show of planning in face of the realities of Brexit.
Michael will continue to be an exceptional Cabinet Secretary in Government delivering for Scotland and its place in Europe.
Most worrying has been the direction of travel which concerns farmers – indeed here in Lanarkshire we could see farmers’ incomes cut in half after Brexit, according to a report by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board published late last year.
I highlight this report as we move ever closer to Brexit Day. Particularly, as the threat of a no-deal Brexit becomes ever more possible.
The report was concerning as it warned a no-deal Brexit, increasingly threatened by Theresa May, is one of a number of threats to farm incomes – alongside possible changes to tariffs and subsidies.
The report finds the ‘worst-case scenario’ would see average farm profits across the UK fall from £38,000 a year to just £15,000.
It shows just how bad a Tory Brexit could get for rural Scotland and beyond.
Of course; recently we have seen yet another saga with agri-foods threatened by Brexit, including the threat of leaving produce rotting in the fields according to research published by Andersons Midlands, who said without access to seasonal labourers from Europe, the consequence on the industry could be a ‘catastrophe’.
And the Scottish Government publication last year entitled ‘Brexit: What’s at stake for businesses’ indicated exactly this with real-life examples from farms in Angus and Perthshire.
A further report by Scotland’s Rural College earlier this year indicated that in every scenario of the three potential post-Brexit trade scenarios on four farm types – beef, sheep, dairy and crops – Scottish farmers would be worse off compared to current arrangements.
It is irresponsible for the UK Conservative Government to continue to push their agenda which is leading closer and closer to no deal because they have little to no solid plan on a hard Brexit.
It is time the UK Government got serious on working better, not only with the European Union, but indeed re-engaging with the devolved nations in our ‘equal Union’.
So as I come to a close on my latest update on the concerns for Scotland around Brexit; it is clear there is no shortage of serious concern about the impact that Brexit and a no-deal Brexit could have on Scotland and the UK.
Scotland did not vote to leave the European Union; and yet we are faced with being dragged out against our will – in the worst possible way – by a Tory Government on the brink of self-destruction.
I look forward to writing for Farmers Guardian again soon and I thank you once again for the invitation to share an update on the current state of Brexit.