The National Sheep Association (NSA) has accused Boris Johnson of using the issue of live exports as a ‘ploy’ to get the public to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker made the remarks after the former Foreign Secretary wrote an article for The Sun which suggested the backstop arrangement in the Withdrawal Agreement would force the UK to follow EU rules on agri-food and prevent a ban on live exports.
In his piece, which described live exports as a ‘barbaric trade’, Mr Johnson said: “Every year this country sends thousands of live calves overseas for slaughter, and some of them are enduring nightmare journeys as far as North Africa.
“They are jammed together in the dark. They are terrified. They slip and slide in their own excrement as the boats buck in the swell…
“The prospect of a ban on live animal transport is even mentioned in the so-called Chequers white paper…
“And now what? I am afraid to say our hopes will almost certainly be dashed by the appalling sell-out we are about to sign.”
The Conservative Party 2017 manifesto contained a promise to ‘control’ the export of live animals, and Defra Secretary Michael Gove previously said he was ‘very attracted’ to the idea of a ban.
But in January this year, Defra was forced to deny suggestions that Ministers were reconsidering their support for a ban after looking at the implications of such a measure.
In response to Mr Johnson’s article, Mr Stocker told Farmers Guardian people should expect to see politicians use ‘any ploy’ to get the public to reject the Brexit deal on the table.
“In this case it is Boris trying to get the animal welfare campaigning faction to oppose it, using inaccurate and emotive language to rake up the ashes of live exports and claiming this deal will not allow us to ban this trade,” he said.
“It is playing politics again rather than working for what is right for our country or even what is right in terms of animal welfare.
“If live exports were to be banned, it would intensify the debate over our internal UK borders, the current backstop arrangement and trade between Northern and Southern Ireland to another level, and with no solution it would simply make transport journeys longer.”