Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose

by alan Davies, FUW Managing Director

THERE’S an old French saying that sums up this month pretty well in my mind, it’s: “Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose”. Translated, it roughly means: “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”.

It stacks up neatly by the expression linked so often to change programmes: “We want change provided everything just stays the same,” and this is often linked to reasons why things don’t change as they might have been expected to. Or more often than not, they don’t progress because people don’t really want things to change.

The reason I mention this today is that we are facing an historic moment in time, one that could, or even should, bring significant change. But will it?

My expectations are low – certainly for the short term. In fact if there are any big changes in the short term I think it will be going very badly indeed. Let me explain why.

On February 1, on the UK’s first day out of the European Union after some four decades, we won’t really and truly be out. Not in the way that a prisoner is “out” once they leave the jail. Instead we will be on a very carefully managed probation period – or in this case “implementation period” as we transition to January 2021, when we quite possibly could be “out”.

But on 1 Feb – nothing changes. (There’s an expression we’ve heard before! Remember when Theresa May said it during the 2017 election? – “Nothing has changed, nothing has changed”. How wrong she was. But I digress. It is vital that we all understand that on 1 Feb, nothing has changed or even will change. We are to all intents and purposes still inextricably linked to EU regulations when it comes to the way we farm and care for animal health and welfare and of course care for the environment.

Any breaches of the rules will put at risk the longer term relations – so standard will stay the same, no bureaucracy will disappear and in fact nothing has changed.

So please please please do not think that just because we are out of the EU that you can

stop following EU rules because by then they will all be UK rules as well. They have been adopted, wholesale, from the EU to make sure that in trading terms at least we are still aligned.

And of course allied to this will be the inability of other countries to instantly flood our home markets with product, because trade deals will not have been agreed and signed. And that takes time. The chlorinated chicken won’t be here in February, but unless we work hard to stop it coming it might arrive sometime – something that we must resist.

If we are working to the highest of standards we cannot possibly allow a Government to accept a deal that allows food produced to a standard that would be illegal in
this country to enter this country and our food

How this all plays out, of course only time

will tell. But there’s another useful expression that comes from Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

I suspect his words will ring true this year too.

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