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Gove rejects claims of a no-deal contingency plan to slaughter 9m sheep

He said the comments, made by Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman, were ‘mutton-headed nonsense’.

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Gove rejects claims of a no-deal contingency plan to slaughter and bury 9m sheep

Defra Secretary Michael Gove has refuted claims that the government has a no-deal contingency plan that would require the slaughter and burial of up to nine million sheep.

 

He said the comments, made by Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman, were ‘mutton-headed nonsense’.

 

It came as the National Sheep Association (NSA) issued heightened fears about the potential plans if export access to the EU was cut off by WTO tariffs.

 

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay this week refused to rule out the possibility of mass slaughterings, instead suggesting the government was looking at compensating farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


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But the NSA said contingency support, if done properly, would be enough to support the sheep sector and prevent ‘an absolute worst-case scenario’.

 

NSA chairman Bryan Griffiths said: “The slaughter of prime lambs ready to go into the food chain providing high quality, premium lamb products is an absolute worst-case scenario and NSA is continuing to work closely with Defra ministers and civil servants to provide industry support and prevent it happening.”

 

Creative

Mr Barclay’s claims rang alarm bells for the industry – which sends 96 per cent of sheep meat exports to the EU – with fears the move would land sheep farmers with the ‘significant problem of tariffs’, which for sheep meat is somewhere between 40 and 50 per cent.

 

The NSA said it had been working on potential contingency plans for a number of years and that the challenge surrounded that peak lamb production roughly coincided with the date the UK could crash out of the EU.

Even if the UK obtains third country status with the EU and allows it to continue trading with France and other major buyers of UK lamb, it would likely result in the implementation of WTO tariffs.

 

“The solution is not just to shoot the animals,” Mr Griffiths said. “The Government must work closely with our industry to be creative in its thinking to find the best way forward to underpin the sheep meat export market until we can regain lost ground.”

 

The NSA is instead calling for the Government to provide assurance that every workable solution would be tried and implemented, something it said would provide the necessary support ‘before considering such a radical resort as destroying livestock’.

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