The political drama in Westminster was on everyone’s lips at the Royal Welsh Show this week as industry leaders lined up to warn farmers a ‘no deal’ Brexit was becoming much more likely.
They raised the alarm after a difficult few days for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has seen her Brexit White Paper face a double mauling from MPs and diplomats in Brussels.
In a seeming rejection of her plans, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said they seemed to ‘contradict the guidelines’ he was given by member state leaders and would split the single market.
It is likely that the bloc will ask the UK to make further concessions, something Brexiteers in Mrs May’s Cabinet and wider party would be unwilling to accept.
Speaking at a breakfast event at the show, CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “The way things are going at the moment, we are heading towards no deal.
“I hope that as usual in Europe, it will be 11 o’clock on March 28 that they do reach some sort of deal, but I really am quite fearful at the moment.”
Ross Murray, chairman of rural asset management at Knight Frank, echoed these concerns, saying he saw ‘dark clouds’ ahead and could ‘feel a hard Brexit coming’.
At the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) Brexit seminar, the union’s head of policy Dr Nick Fenwick suggested extending the Article 50 deadline which expires on March 29 2019 was the only sensible way out of the impasse.
“We might just accidentally fall off a really severe cliff edge because we do not have a deal,” he said.
“It would require a change in UK law, and it would also have to be approved by the EU27, but extending Article 50 is the best option.”
One other way the Government is thought to be planning for a no deal Brexit is by using the UK’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) as a ‘parachute’.
Farmers Guardian understands some Ministers believe Britain would need to formally resign its membership of the EEA in order to leave, something which has not been done, meaning the country would automatically remain a member after Brexit.
This option is unlikely to go down well with many leave-supporting MPs because it would effectively keep the UK inside the single market.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove, however, denied continued membership of the EEA was on the table and insisted it was not the right post-Brexit solution for the UK.