Brexit: the only way is out
ARMING organisations are adjusting— with a mix of pragmatism, dismay and relief that the waiting is over—to Theresa May’s clarification that Britain will exit the single market.
‘Farming underpins the UK’S biggest manufacturing sector,’ reminds NFU President Meurig Raymond. ‘It’s so important that we have as fair a deal as possible, with unfettered access into the European market.’
The National Pig Association has identified three priorities: access to EU labour, tariff-free exports to the EU market and ensuring that imports adhere to welfare standards.
‘We understand why immigration is a priority, but we fear serious unintended consequences if politics triumphs over economic reality,’ warns chief executive Zoe Davies. ‘And it’s essential
Fthat new trade arrangements, for example with the USA, do not result in the UK being flooded with cheaper meat produced to lower standards than permitted here.’
The National Sheep Association is dismayed. ‘The Government is taking away our biggest export market with no clear plan for how to replace it,’ says Joanne Briggs. ‘We feel the wider implications have not been considered, as the economic viability of sheep farms also brings public goods. If you take away the end market, you risk the whole structure.’
Tom Hind of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board says that, although clarity about ‘the direction of travel is welcome’, Mrs May’s statement about ‘no [EU] deal being better than a bad deal’ means ‘there is still massive uncertainty, given just how important the EU market is for many sectors, such as lamb’. Disappointment is the predominant feeling for those at the Soil Association, with director of innovation Tom Macmillan stating that ‘the Prime Minister’s vision for post-brexit Britain made almost no mention of food and farming, even though they are fundamental to human health, the future of our precious countryside and wildlife, and are our largest manufacturing industry.’
CLA President Ross Murray has called for caution in balancing opportunity against risk in trade agreements. He says: ‘We welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurances about avoiding economic cliff edges. Getting the implementation phase right will be critical to the livelihoods of farmers and the future of rural communities.’ KG
Prime movers: there are fears that trade deals with the USA may flood the UK with cheap meat