Reminder that the clock is ticking

by Glyn Roberts, FUW president

Time has certainly flown by this year and as we head towards the final couple of months of the year, there are still plenty of things we need clarity on, especially in Brexit terms.

With just 16 months to go there will not be a single farm business who doesn’t ask itself what will happen in the years to come and what steps they can take to future proof their business.

The industry as a whole faces a complex future post Brexit with issues to resolve over labour, regulation, farm support and export markets.

Of course, the need for continued access to the single market and our membership of the customs union remain topics the FUW has spoken about not just since the release of the latest AHDB report, or the FAPRi report in August, but since before the eU referendum in June 2016.

in that respect, comments made by minister for Transport Chris Grayling, who argued in a television interview that the UK could just grow more food to keep prices down if Britain crashes out of the eU, can only be described as utter nonsense.

He seems unaware of the results of the economic modelling commissioned by his colleagues in DeFRA, which paints a far more complex picture for the UK’s many agricultural sectors, and suggest in some ‘harder’ Brexit scenarios UK food production would collapse.

That modelling and modelling work published more recently by the AHDB (Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board) predict pretty cataclysmic collapses in many or most agricultural sectors in the event of harder Brexit ‘no-deal’ type scenarios.

Obviously, far more notice should be taken of the contents of these reports than of an off-the-cuff comment by a minister, which is not backed up by the Government’s own evidence.

And as time continues to hurtle past us at frightening speed, we remind the UK Government that the need for a sensible exit time table remains an issue.

The union called for “…the UK and eU to agree on a sensible timetable for Brexit … or risk dire consequences for both the UK and the remaining 27 member States”, and has welcomed growing support for its call by other organisations and bodies.

in early July, the Confederation of British industry (CBi) called for a Brexit transition period, saying it was impossible for all the details of a new eU trade deal to be in place by march 2019, and that UK businesses need a ‘bridge’ instead of a ‘cliff-edge’ for the new deal – echoing the reality-check issued by the FUW on the day after the Brexit referendum.

And no less than fourteen farming organisations from across the UK have now come out in support of an initial transition period being in place for the full duration of negotiations with the eU.

ministers and politicians are also speaking about the need to agree transitional arrangements with the eU, and it is welcome news that the foremost demand outlined in our may 2017 manifesto is sinking in amongst so many.

However, despite the growing support for that position, we should not forget that such agreement has not been reached, and it therefore remains a priority for both the UK and eU. The clock is ticking!

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