Brexit may demand more of the resilience farmers showed
2018 will certainly be recorded as one of the most tumultuous years for farmers.
Dramas ranged from weather events to Brexit, to fodder shortages, exposure to the vagaries of price volatility, and the impetus for action on climate change gaining significant traction.
Memorable moments include the snow drifts of Storm Emma which left local roads completely impassable for days on end; the drought of June and July which resulted in our cows being held in sacrifice paddocks eating all too valuable bales; and Storm Ali which closed down the Ploughing Championships for a day.
Despite the chaos, farmers ploughed on (excuse the pun) doing what they do best, managing their farms, looking after their stock, and preparing for the winter.
Thankfully, the fodder crisis that could have materialised seems to have dissipated somewhat, after relatively kind autumn weather allowed stock to remain outside longer than expected, and extra bales to be saved.
Farming in 2018 has certainly not been easy, with all those external events translating into mental, physical and financial pressures inside the farm gate.
While the weather events of winter 2018 are relatively benign — so far — compared to ex-hurricane Ophelia and Storm Emma, as the year draws to a close, the calamity of Brexit seems to be ramping up by the week.
From a distance, one would have a certain admiration for the tenacity of Prime Minister Theresa May who has survived upheavals within and outside of her Conservative Party.
However, her resolve seems to have brought her down a cul de sac.
EU leaders in the past week have ruled out a renegotiation of her withdrawal deal, yet she lacks majority support within the House of Commons to get approval for the deal.
Addressing the House of Commons this week, Theresa May suggested that if MPS wanted to ensure that there is “not a no-deal”, they must either accept a no-brexit or the deal that is on offer. Theresa May suggested that MPS will have an opportunity to have a meaningful vote on the week commencing January 14, when the House will finally decide whether to accept or reject the deal on offer.
The PM has been accused of running down time, and forcing MPS to choose between a bad deal or no deal.
Given that there is no further legal movement expected from the EU, there is no justification for delaying the vote in the House of Commons for the coming month.
Yet, Theresa May refuses to hold another referendum, the people voted for Brexit, and her deal concluded with the EU will deliver that Brexit.
She survived her own internal party vote of confidence last week, where a majority of Conservatives backed her.
With that vote of confidence, she has secured 12 months of immunity from another such vote, meaning that her leadership cannot be challenged from within the party.
Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister for delaying the vote, but his tabling of such a motion is effectively meaningless, and cannot result in Theresa May’s expulsion.
Last week, the European Court of Justice confirmed that the UK could of its own accord stop the Brexit process by revoking Article 50.
Theresa May has admitted that she expected to lose the now postponed House of Commons vote on her Brexit deal last week by a significant majority, which suggests it is hard to see how this position can be turned around in the next month or so, given there has been so little movement on the EU side.
Boiling the whole furore down, ultimately there still remains only three fundamental outcomes.
They are a no-deal crashout of Europe, agreement of the deal negotiated with Europe, or revoking Article 50 to stay in the EU.
Whatever Brexit and 2019 bring, Ireland’s farmers will continue to do what they do best, producing quality produce to a high standard.
Despite the upheavals, there will continue to be demand for Ireland’s quality produce.
Farmers may need to adapt, and respond to a changed environment .
But, just like all the storms and crises of 2018, the resilience of Ireland’s farmers can carry them through 2019, whatever it may bring.
Best wishes to all of you for 2019.
■ Chartered tax adviser Kieran Coughlan, Belgooly, Co Cork. (086) 8678296