With the Conservative Party having won a resounding victory in the General Election, Abi Kay, Mollie Leach and Ewan Pate find out what farming can expect.
Farmers have expressed concerns about how UK exports to the EU could be affected in the wake of the Conservative election victory.
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson doubled down on his promise to leave the bloc by the end of December 2020, regardless of the stage trade negotiations are at, some in the industry feared they may be facing World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs in just over a year’s time.
South Wales sheep farmer Hywel Davies said: “We are heavily reliant on exports for lamb, so a tariff is going to add costs for us.
“We want to avoid costs – everybody wants to avoid costs – so why would you vote to build them in? I just cannot get my head around it.”
But Andrew Loftus, a livestock farmer from North Yorkshire, claimed the size of the Conservative majority would give the Prime Minister ‘greater strength and flexibility’ to get a good trade deal with the EU.
Scottish sheep and beef farmer, and former National Sheep Association Scotland chairman John Fyall, raised a different concern – that the Conservatives would now have the power to water down standards to strike new trade deals across the world.
“There is no commitment on food standards,” he said.
“It would appear standards will be increased here while we are exposed to imports from abroad with different production systems.”
Mr Fyall also described current plans, yet to be approved at the WTO, for the UK to take almost as much of the New Zealand lamb quota as the EU as ‘mental’.
“If the pound picks up, we could see the New Zealanders keen to put lamb back in,” he said.
“As well as having difficulty getting back into Europe, and the threat from imports from the US, we are going to have New Zealand having the capacity to put out three times as much lamb.”
Richard King, a partner at The Andersons Centre, highlighted theimpact of a strengthened pound too, pointing out Scottish farmers could lose cash if the value of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements was converted to sterling when the pound was strong.
“If the UK Government was to wait until sterling was 65p to the euro, it could save the Treasury many millions and cost farmers dearly,” he told a breakfast briefing near Edinburgh on December 13.
He encouraged farmers to budget for a 5 per cent reduction in BPS in 2020.
NFU president Minette Batters
“The Government must set up a Trade and Standards Commission as a matter of urgency so they can work with industry to ensure trade negotiations do not allow the high standards, which are the hallmark of UK farming, to be undermined by imported food which would fail to meet our own domestic regulations.”
FUW president Glyn Roberts
“It is imperative the Government uses the coming months to deliver an EU trade deal which secures unfettered access for our produce to EU markets and does not introduce unfair competition from farmers in other countries.
“We also need to see long-term funding commitments for our industry and an urgent review of the bargain basement tariffs laid out in the Import Tariff Reduction Bill, which make a laughing stock of our trade negotiating hand.”
NFU Cymru president John Davies
“Leaving the EU at the end of January on the basis of the current withdrawal agreement means we enter a transition period, during which time Government begins the complex process of thrashing out the fine details of our future trading relationship with the EU.
“The Government must make absolutely sure we avoid a situation whereby the transition period elapses without reaching an agreement.”
CLA president Mark Bridgeman
“With a stable Government in place, at least the Prime Minister can negotiate with a greater degree of strength than before.
“But Government needs to earn the trust of rural communities by guaranteeing UK farmers will not be undercut by cheap imports produced to lower standards.”
NFU Scotland political affairs manager Clare Slipper
“After two years of political stagnation, NFUS hopes this decisive outcome will signal progress and a clear direction from the new UK Government.
“Our surveys have shown dither and delay have stifled confidence in the Scottish agricultural sector and it is vital the new UK Government takes early steps to give certainty – not least because farmers and crofters will, on January 31, 2020, face the fourth Brexit cliff-edge in 12 months.”