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The UK Government does not appreciate – or care – about what Brexit will bring in 2021

The UK Government either does not appreciate, or care, about what Brexit is about to bring for farmers, says Deidre Brock, SNP Westminster spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Brexit proper is rolling towards us with a kind of dead-eyed relentlessness. Hogmanay this year might be a milestone on a journey into chaos.

 

The horror that some of us are feeling is quite clearly not shared by other folk, folk who, by all appearances, think this is a jolly wheeze.

 

I’m hoping I’m wrong here but I don’t think the UK Government really appreciates what’s about to happen – or the Ministers just don’t care.

 

I’ve had constituents getting in touch saying their banks are shutting down their operations in the EU so they’ll need to make other arrangements for banking when they’re over there doing business, unless a deal is reached on passporting for financial services organisations.

 

Cost

 

That will cost those businesses extra cash and extra effort in running bank accounts here and in the EU.

 

That just makes it a bit harder all round and it’s part of the problem.

 

We already know about how exporters will have more paperwork, how export health certificates will become an issue, how fish and seafood will be subject to new certification, and how the import of things like fertilisers will be bound up in additional checks and regulations.

 

What we don’t know, yet, is how slow the customs clearance might be – in either direction.

 

Reaction

 

We don’t know what reaction there will be from customers in the EU who can’t get timely deliveries, what higher costs food producers here might face in exporting, or what reaction there might be to questions about standards.

 

Without a comprehensive deal to cover the areas that EU membership used to cover for us, we’re in an area of real uncertainty.

 

Time is slipping away, too, like sand through our fingers.

 

Just-in-time will vanish whether we get a deal or not, for imports and exports, and for fresh produce that is a nightmare.

 

Problem

 

For some imports of fertilisers, animal feeds and crop treatment products it is just as much a problem.

 

We’ve got food producers who have got important markets in the EU, markets they have built on the back of high-quality products and consistent performance, and that is under threat because the deal is not done and we are only months away – so few months that we can start talking in terms of weeks away.

 

The pandemic created delay, of course it did, but the option was there for the UK to request an extension.

 

I cannot understand why that option was not exercised. Even the most dull-headed and obstinate Brexiteer would see the need to hold off and wait a little while, to get the time to get things right, to ride out the problem and see where we land.

 

Rational

 

Why the UK Government thought it had to bash on regardless is beyond all rational understanding.

 

Its performance during this crisis has far outdone all the disasters and chaos that previous UK Governments have shown in previous crises.

 

It is, truly, a world leader in that respect.

 

Even so, surely there was someone somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall saying ‘it might be a good idea to delay this thing while we deal with that thing’?

 

In previous times I might have expected the Prime Minister’s closest advisers to do that, but given that they’ve taken to driving to see whether their eyes work I’m not sure that’s a direction to look to for hope, sense or perspective.

 

Chaotic

 

We’ve got a pandemic to deal with, the resultant economic crash and its after-effects and now a chaotic Brexit.

 

We live in interesting times, dangerous times, turbulent times.

 

It’s bad enough when the new threats are viruses, tariffs and ponderous customs checks, but it’s worse when the Government doesn’t do the obvious thing to mitigate them.

 

Stay safe, see you on the other side.

 

Deidre can be found tweeting at @DeidreBrock

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