Brexit, Brexit…and more Brexit
With lambing season in full flow you’d be forgiven for feeling the positive vibes that come with welcoming the energetic offspring of your flock into the world. But, as our farmers watch their fields begin to populate with tiny balls of valuable fluff, the rest of the country sees their newsfeeds and televisions fill-up with one major story: Brexit.
With two-successive losses in the house, Theresa May’s Brexit deal looks more and more precarious as the March deadline approaches. This means more and more uncertainty for the UK’s agriculture industry and increasing anxiety for our hardworking farmers.
Key organisations in the sector are calling for an extension of Article 50, as the trade implications of a bodged deal would be enormous. NFU Cymru have highlighted that 35-40% of all Welsh lamb sales come from outside the UK and of that number 92% goes to EU countries. Parliament has committed to devolving more power and funding to rural areas, but with Brexit acting a vacuum for such funds and trading practices being unresolved, its extremely hard to see how any Welsh sheep farmers will be able to sleep well in the coming month(s).
Similarly, Scotland accounts for an enormous proportion of Britain’s agricultural output. Crops, beef and pork have long been staples for industry, North of the border. And yet, Scotland’s role in Brexit negotiations is remaining obscure. The SNP continue to call for reassurances on delivering certainty and security for Scottish farmers, but the call has remained unanswered to this point. If anything, Brexit uncertainty has reignited calls for another Scottish independence referendum. Uncertainty breeding further uncertainty.
However, the opportunities posed from leaving the EU and redefining agricultural regulations do seem attractive. More funds heading to rural areas, greater industrial power for Wales and Scotland and the ability to kick-start a blossoming AgriTech ecosystem are all on the cards. The questions are:
- When will we be leaving the EU, if at all?
- What assurances are there for the agriculture industry that pre-Brexit promises will be kept?
Although we cannot speculate about the first question, the second question does look to be answered midway through this year with Defra announcing the 2019 Agriculture Bill. The Agriculture Conference will be a platform to discuss these changes in legislation and regulation, as Defra and the AHDB have committed to presentations concerning opportunities for a Britain separated from the EU with specific outlines and guidance.
This event looks to be a great opportunity to hear how the agriculture industry is paramount to our governing bodies, as a lifeblood for many UK businesses and citizens. What is more, Brexit offers a chance for Parliament to renew the confidence of member states, such as Wales and Scotland, as well as reigniting one of the UK’s most historical and important industries. In the coming day we will surely see how government have responded to the worries of the sector and we hope that Britain’s future is as positive as new-born lambs making their first venture onto the fields of this green and pleasant land.