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UK farmers will struggle to replace food imports if feed and fertiliser is stuck at customs

People suggesting farmers can grow more food to replace imports after Brexit fail to understand how difficult this will be made by new trade barriers holding up inputs, says Deidre Brock, SNP candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Farmers Guardian is not supporting any political party in the December election.

 

During the course of the campaign, we will be carrying or have carried articles from Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green Party, and Plaid Cymru candidates or members.

 

Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe was due to write a piece for us to go live on 12 December but had to pull out at the last minute.

I’ve got a friend who’s said to me there’s one benefit to a winter election.

 

He says politicians might now understand how farmers feel getting up in the dark in all weathers to go out and tend to animals – but only slightly.

 

The weather’s not the only cold we’re facing just now, though. Brexit is an icy wind whipping right through the body politic.

 

It’s freezing relations with our European neighbours and the frost is biting deep into the normal functioning of domestic politics.

 

The Government’s approach to ‘getting Brexit done’ is narrow, cold and brutish.

 

Sidelined

 

It has sidelined everything which should be the normal order of business for politicians – the example of the Prime Minister refusing to look at the photograph of the young boy on the floor of a hospital merely the most stark.

 

Things which should, ordinarily, demand the attention of Ministers are left dangling.

 

As we left Parliament for this cold and dark election, I received a whole load of answers to my parliamentary questions.

 

They said the Government had run out of time to answer them.

 

I was told the same back at the rogue prorogue which was ruled illegal, and at the prorogue which stood, so I repeated the questions as soon as I could thereafter.

 

Important

 

I’ve been asking these questions for two years now and still not got answers and they’re important.

 

I’ve been asking what plans there are for moving agricultural supplies and products across borders after Brexit.

 

I’ve been asking the same about fishing and about foods in general.

 

The fact that Ministers have changed but the answers are still dodged suggests there are no good answers, if there are any answers at all.

 

Agricultural businesses are on the line here – farms, suppliers, hauliers, everyone in the chain – and there are no answers out of Government.

 

Grow

 

I keep hearing, from people who should know better, that the import/export of food doesn’t matter, we’ll simply grow our own.

 

That becomes a lot more difficult if your fertiliser is stuck at customs and there’s no way to store it in bulk because it’s explosive.

 

It’s more difficult if your feed is held up by Government failure to agree a deal which lets it flow.

 

It’s also more difficult if the market for your high welfare, top-quality beef is mainly in mainland Europe and the prospect of low welfare, intensively-farmed US meat is looming.

 

We’re facing a possibility of losing the just-in-time supplies which farmers need to keep producing as they have been.

 

Reasonable

 

Losing access to the EU marketplace which has been providing reasonable cashflow; losing the sanitary and phytosanitary standards which have driven up the quality of food in our shops; losing the protections of the geographical indications which the EU provided us; and losing the protection which our food producers have had against cheap, low-quality imports.

 

Who would gain out of that? Not farmers and food producers here, and not consumers here, that’s for sure.

 

This election is cold and dark, but it’s also very important, and has been driven by far too many politicians thinking prejudice is just as valid as good government.

 

I hope for all of our sakes we get a result which lets us at least defer this Brexit nonsense until we can get some guarantees on the future arrangements.

 

We could start with the Government answering some questions.

 

Deidre can be found tweeting at @DeidreBrock

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