12 JUL 2019

No Deal is a disaster for local farmers. I won't be voting to destroy local businesses

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has said that a No Deal Brexit is the worst possible deal for the farming industry.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has called it a "grisly prospect".

No Deal would lead to bankruptcies and shortages hitting local businesses and consumers alike. The UK has a trade deficit in food, drink and animal feed products with both the EU and with non-EU countries.

The UK imported £46 billion of food products in 2018, 70% of which were from the EU. These imports are necessary because we are not and have no prospect of being self-sufficient in feeding our nation. We are currently 61% self-sufficient in all foods and only 75% sufficient in foods that can be grown here. Whilst we can source food further afield than the EU, our rapid supply chains for fresh produce from our nearest and most important trading partners will inevitably face disruption, especially so if there is a bad tempered exit alongside threats to renege on international commitments.

As it stands, EU farm subsidies to the UK currently make up around 50-80% of farm income. The CAP currently provides nearly £4billion of support annually to farmers across the UK as well as providing a market safety net. There is a serious question mark over whether the Government will continue to offer this support in the long term after Brexit and, if our economy takes a hit even close to the levels predicted, we are unlikely to be able to afford these as well as the host of other commitments that the leadership candidates have signed up to. Something will have to give but these costs have not been properly set out by those claiming No Deal will be pain free.

The government has assured the industry that all rules and processes, regarding farm payments, will remain the same until the Agriculture Bill is introduced in to the UK Parliament but farmers are understandably anxious about the long term.

They are even more worried about the short-term impact of a No Deal scenario because WTO tariffs will immediately be applied for EU trade, as well as WTO rules for plant and animal health checks.

These will have major impacts on both import and export markets, consumer choice, the speed of supply chains, and prices.

Tariffs are usually higher for agricultural products than for other goods and services and perishable products such as fish and meat from local producers are very sensitive to delays at borders. Without an alternative arrangement, the EU will treat the UK as a third country and a range of tariffs as well as costly checks, registrations and certifications will start to apply for the first time and these costs will leave many local businesses unable to compete.

Agriculture is also impacted by the no deal effects of other policies e.g. immigration (for seasonal, agri-food workers and vets).

If the UK wishes to sign Free Trade Agreements with non-EU countries such as the USA, we may be required to alter standards and accept intensively reared animals which have been fed hormones or antibiotics as growth promoters or whose carcasses have been treated with products like chlorine.

I know there are some MPs who feel all this is a price worth paying for Brexit, but this is easier to insist on when their own livelihoods are not at stake. I won't be voting to put local farmers out of business, to risk lower food standards or to have completely avoidable shortages and higher prices.

2 comments

Wollaston is an utter disgrace. I voted for a Tory MP and have been robbed. When is the by-election? Cretins like Wollaston have brought politicians into contempt.
- George, Paignton

I'm sorry that George of Paignton feels like this, and his dismissive words about Dr Wollaston - who gives serious reasons for her decisions - does nothing to help his cause.
- Robert Lawson-Peebles

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