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The UK’s relationship with the EU is the most important for farming – we must not forget that

The UK’s relationship with the EU is the most important one for the farming industry, but it’s amazing how many people forget that, says Oliver Dowding, arable farmer and agricultural spokesman for the Green Party in the south west.

Recently, a member of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, told Channel 4: “There is no negotiation simply because the British position is to say we don’t want the backstop and we don’t want the backstop!

 

“The British counter-proposal? Nothing. So basically they say, come back with something that pleases us.

 

“That’s not a negotiation. It’s a lie to say that they are making progress. Negotiation is putting options on the table, negotiating the detail and trying to forge agreement.

 

“Boris is not interested in an agreement, but giving the illusion that he negotiated in good faith with bad people and ultimately it is they who’ve caused disorder and disruption. He tried but those bloody Europeans wouldn’t help.”

 

Hanging

 

The country, and agriculture in particular, risks being left hanging.

 

Agriculture isn’t the only industry suffering.

 

Look at clothing manufacturers problems: “We can’t compete with companies selling leggings for £3. Ours cost £30. We pay our workers a proper wage. My message to consumers - think about who is making the clothes you wear and at what cost.”

 

This applies equally to food.

 

With agricultural produce, while Tesco paid out £580 million in dividends, they’re now trying to screw producers.

 

Bullying

 

I suggest this is nothing short of bullying. But sadly, our Government seems disinterested in standing up for the smaller guy.

 

Perhaps they’re mindful of where they get their political donations?

 

Fairness and trade needs to be a two-way process of negotiation, and it’s not.

 

The powerful are exhibiting more bullying tendencies, and becoming more powerful with less checks. This is despite having various agencies who should be stopping such practices.

 

Battle

 

According to reports, Tesco asked suppliers to agree price cuts to help deal with its battle with the budget supermarkets.

 

They said “we are committed to open, fair and transparent partnerships with all our suppliers.” They have given suppliers a deadline of July 10 to agree – barely a week!

 

Then the managing director at Arla, Ash Amirahradi, warns the upheaval caused by Covid-19 will be nothing compared to what’s coming as the Brexit transition period end nears.

 

He notes the resilience over the last three months was due to ‘short, agile and responsive import chains that link us to the EU’.

Realities

 

With the UK still importing 35 per cent of yoghurt, nearly 40 per cent of butter and 67 per cent of cheese, he warns we need supply chains to be efficient and quick, but that Brexiteer expectations and realities are very different.

 

His major point is that it’s clear the trade relationship the UK has with the EU is the most important one for the UK food industry.

 

It’s amazing how many people seem to ignore that.

 

Oliver can be found tweeting at @OliverDowding

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