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Farmers give their verdict on Defra's Brexit preparations

As the Prime Minister steps plans for ‘no deal’ into high gear, we asked farmers what they thought of Defra’s Brexit preparations and whether or not they were satisfied with Secretary of State Michael Gove’s work so far.

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Phil Latham, dairy farmer, Cheshire


"[Defra’s Brexit preparations are] a shambles, there is no clarity at all on the way we are going to trade, so you cannot plan. How do you develop a policy if there is no transparency? Even on the way we are trying to exit, it swings with the political wind from one extreme to another depending on the cabinet’s current mood.


"I am happy [Gove] is in post because he wants to do the right thing, he is a political heavyweight and as a Brexiteer he has to champion what he helped to instigate. It is a good thing he is there because we can hold him accountable to a degree on the direction of travel."

Stuart Roberts, cereal and beef farmer, Hertfordshire


"Michael Gove’s Conservative Party Conference speech was fairly average. It was reasonably well delivered, but on the content there was very little detail. We need a bit of detail and we need it fast.


"There were calves born on my farm last week which will be put in the market after Brexit and I do not know what that market is going to look like, I do not know what the trade environment is going to be.


"I am relatively optimistic [about the future], I think there will be opportunities. But we need some honesty, transparency and pace so we can start to organise and make business decisions based on what the world will look like."

James Small, livestock farmer, Somerset


"I am really concerned about the amount of detail we are getting. Farming is such a long-term industry, we need to be putting plans in place now for the next three or four years.


"We need to have some idea of the continuity going forward. Saying we will be looking at a transitional period taking us to 2022 is better than nothing, but we need to be looking at what is happening beyond then.


"Mr Gove is listening, but I am slightly concerned about his leaning towards environmental issues all of the time. In most of his speeches he focuses on the environment, and it is hugely important, but the environment has to be part of a productive farming scenario.


"I would really urge we get more information to enable farmers across the country to be able to start making some firm decisions about what we need to do with regard to our livestock, our cropping, our farms and our families."

Richard Bower, beef and cereal farmer, Staffordshire


"I see Brexit as an opportunity to write policy ourselves, but I think progress is being led more by the NFU than by Defra.


"[Michael Gove] is telling us what we already know – ‘we are the best farmers in the world, we have all this potential’ – all he is doing is emphasising what we already know. At least it is positive, he is not criticising us, but come on, let us take it to the next step."

Defra viewpoint

"We know stability and certainty are vital to help our food and farming industry thrive as we prepare to leave the EU and that is why we have committed to provide the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament.


"Outside the EU and free from the bureaucracy of the Common Agricultural Policy our farmers will be able to focus on growing, selling and exporting more fantastic produce.


"We are determined to get the best possible deal, one that allows us to continue to have tariff-free frictionless access to the European market and we will strike new trade deals around the world to help farmers take advantage of the growing appetite for great British food.


"We will continue to work with farmers across the UK as we develop our new approach, focusing on boosting productivity whilst delivering a Green Brexit that protects and enhances our natural environment.”

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