After grilling Defra Secretary Michael Gove on his plans to compensate sheep farmers in a no-deal Brexit, my concerns were not allayed, says John Finnie, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.
Another day, another contender has stepped forward to be the most Brexity Brexiteer running to be the leader of the Conservatives, following Theresa May’s crocodilian tearful resignation.
The internal Tory machinations are in full swing to pick the next victim to be Prime Minister, with slogans aplenty and rhetoric to match.
But as the dinner party farce in the Conservative Party goes on, the Government of the United Kingdom is fiddling while Brexit burns closer to a no-deal scenario and the wrecking of the economy.
Recently, during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, my colleagues and I examined the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Scotland’s sheep farming sector.
We heard previously from the Scottish Government that: “There are specific concerns regarding… the impact of a no-deal exit on the lamb sector because one third of Scotch lamb is exported to European markets.
“UK Government modelling estimated the impact of the loss of that European market or being subject to a tariff of up to 40 or 50 per cent would cause a collapse in the price of up to 45 per cent and substantial lost revenue in a range between £54 million and £73 million”.
These are truly staggering figures and would be a body blow to farmers.
The following week, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to question the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, on the impact of a no-deal on Scotland’s sheep farming sector.
Mr Gove’s answers did little to allay the concerns facing this industry, or indeed the concerns of those sat around the committee table, and he seemed to spend much of the committee’s time whipping the dead horse, or should that be sheep, that is Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Since then it has become apparent, even to the slavish adherence which is common in the Conservative Party, that Theresa May’s deal is dead. It is an ex-deal.
The UK Government is modelling a mitigation scheme which would see sheep farmers have their income supported against this body blow.
It plans a scheme which would see farmers paid per breeding ewe, but at the same time is proposing a lower tariff on imports of lamb meat than Scottish lamb will be faced with on exporting to the EU.
There is no Brexit deal which will see the sheep farmers and the economy of Scotland better off than remaining.
It’s time for Mr Gove and his fellow lemmings to stop seeking unicorns beyond the cliff edge, and time for the UK Government to revoke Article 50, keeping all of us in the EU.
John can be found tweeting at @JohnFinnieHI