Farm groups have warned a no-deal Brexit is more likely than ever after the Brexit Party topped the polls in the European elections.
Nigel Farage’s six-week-old outfit came first in every country and region apart from London, where the Liberal Democrats won, Scotland, where the SNP made gains and Northern Ireland, where they did not stand.
Guy Smith, deputy president of the NFU, told Farmers Guardian the Brexit Party’s determination to leave the EU without a deal had ‘pushed the issue further up the agenda’.
Since the election results were announced, top Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab have both promised to keep no deal on the table, while Esther McVey has said ‘nothing else will wash’.
Another candidate, James Cleverly, suggested not delivering Brexit at all would be ‘significantly more damaging’ than leaving without a Withdrawal Agreeement.
“This is worrying for us, because our assessment has always been a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for agriculture, and that has not changed,” Mr Smith said.
“I have got a horrible feeling next October is going to feel rather like last March, where we are working our way towards the cliff edge and we have to brace ourselves for it.”
The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) has also called on politicians not to be tempted into ‘knee-jerk reactions’ by the election results.
Chief executive George Dunn said: “Taking full advantage of the long-term opportunities from leaving the EU while, at the same time, safeguarding ourselves from some of the challenges we will face, will take skill and diplomacy.
“The TFA believes this cannot be achieved through a cliff edge no-deal Brexit with the EU in the autumn.
“As the Conservative Party looks to appoint a new leader, also to become our new Prime Minister, it is essential whoever that is works to secure a sensible transitional arrangement with the EU which will allow us to have a soft landing.”