A post-Brexit free trade scenario of the kind proposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson risks making more than 250,000 hectares of farmland in Wales ‘unproductive’, according to analysis from the Welsh Government.
The modelling predicts a reduction in land used for dairy, beef and sheep farming as home production comes under pressure from lower prices in global commodity markets.
The land released from farming would mainly be in severely disadvantaged areas (SDA), with ‘far less change’ on more productive land.
The analysis is based on the assumption that the UK signs a trade deal with the EU which eliminates tariffs, but introduces non-tariff barriers, increasing transaction costs by 20 per cent.
It is also assumed that existing EU trade agreements with other countries are rolled over, and new deals are signed with Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada, while immigration controls are ramped up.
Plaid Cymru’s rural affairs spokesman in Westminster, Ben Lake, claimed the research showed Boris Johnson would be willing to ‘sacrifice Welsh agriculture’ to realise his Brexit plans.
“We know Westminster has barely given Wales a second thought in the Brexit process, but this data shows how little respect they have for our rural communities,” he said.
“Farms are the backbone of the Welsh economy and at the heart of our rural communities. We simply cannot let bureaucrats and politicians in Westminster, who have probably never visited a farm, deliver these damaging policies.”
NFU Cymru president John Davies told Farmers Guardian the report showed the negative impact of any deal which puts up barriers between the UK and the EU.
“This is why NFU Cymru has and will continue to highlight the crucial need for Welsh agriculture to maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU27,” he said.
The news came shortly after separate research from Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh found a sizeable minority of the public in England, Scotland and Wales believe Brexit will ‘destroy’ the UK’s farming industry.
The Future of England Survey, carried out by YouGov, found 42 per cent of English voters, 46 per cent of Welsh and 53 per cent of the Scottish public think is it likely the UK’s agriculture sector will be devastated by leaving the EU.