A new group is being launched today (Thursday) - ‘Farmers for a People’s Vote’ will represent the interests of UK farmers and the agricultural sector against the risks of Brexit, particularly a disastrous No Deal.
The group will be launched at a press conference at The Farmers Club in London, and will feature the publication of a new report by Dr Sean Rickard, former Chief Economist of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), detailing the devastating impact a disastrous No Deal would have on UK farmers and the agricultural sector. The report warns that No Deal could potentially put over half of UK farms out of business.
The launch will be preceded by a small flock of sheep being herded past government buildings to highlight visually the risk Brexit presents to livestock.
The farming and agricultural sector have been very outspoken about the risks No Deal would present to their vital industry, including:
- The National Sheep Association confirming that 96% of all the UK’s sheep meat exports go to the EU, and that “with a no-deal, that would become untenable. Farmers would stop trying to export the lamb and flood the local market, and would not be able to sell it.”
- An impact study by the Andersons Centre commissioned by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and two other GB red meat levy boards found that sheep farmers would lose 99.7% of their EU markets if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. HCC chairman Kevin Roberts said the impact on the farming sector in Wales would be “off the Richter scale”.
- The EU has said it could take up to six months to authorise imports from UK food producers. The NFU says this would be a de facto trade embargo, leaving sheep farmers with no option but to slaughter surplus animals. Minette Batters of the NFU has warned: “If there isn’t a deal with the EU, high export tariffs could effectively mean we have no market for four-and-a-half million lambs. A no-deal Brexit could decimate those farms up and down Britain, from our uplands to the Welsh mountains, to the rolling hills and the English lowlands”
- According to the National Farmers’ Union, in a No Deal Brexit UK exports to the EU would face the same tariffs as goods entering the EU from third countries without a preferential trade agreement. The equivalent ad valorem tariff is 27% on chicken, 46% on lamb, and 65% on beef.
The new group, ‘Farmers for a People’s Vote’, will help draw further attention to the devastating impact that Brexit, in particular No Deal, would have on the farming and agricultural sector. It will bring together farmers, other workers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector who want to campaign for the public to be given the final say over Brexit through a People’s Vote.
Dr Sean Rickard, former Chief Economist of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said:
“The campaign to leave the EU was based on the idea that the UK would quickly secure a comprehensive new trading relationship with Europe and that leaving would have only positive impacts on UK farming. But today the reality looks very different. Boris Johnson has made it very clear that his over-riding priority as Prime Minister is to take the UK out of the EU by 31st October, if necessary with No Deal, no matter what the cost to the country’s economy and security.
“Many industries will suffer but the industry that would suffer the most serious economic shock will be agriculture. It is impossible to project the exact number of farmers who will go out of business. What we do know is that over 40% of them will have no net income if the basic payment is removed. If at the same time the Government removes all tariffs and so depresses prices, these two factors combined will render over 50% of farms in this country unviable. The possibility of any compensation from the government going anywhere near offsetting this is remote because so many promises have been made to so many other sectors and not all can be fulfilled.
“The agricultural sector in the UK faces significant challenges from No Deal, as tariffs and non-tariff barriers are erected to our exports at the same time as the UK Government lowers tariffs on imports from third country farmers. British farmers will be caught between increased competition from third countries importing produce to the UK, and increased difficulty and cost when exporting to our biggest market, the EU. Free Trade Agreements to reduce those barriers will take many years to negotiate. Coupled with the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme of support payments by 2022, the driving down of farm revenues means that more than half of farms could go out of business.”
Guto Bebb, Conservative MP for Aberconwy and a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
“Farming is at the very heart of what makes this country great – to put that all at risk for the sake of pursuing a disastrous No Deal for which the public haven’t given their consent would be an outrage against democracy.
“I represent many farmers and agricultural workers in my constituency – they did not vote to put themselves out of work or to put their farms out of business, jeopardising their livelihoods. Many of them voted to leave the EU in good faith because people like Boris Johnson told them it would mean an improved trading relationship with the EU and a better future. The reality looks very different now.
“It would be a disgrace to democracy to impose No Deal on this country without the public having the final say, especially now that we know so much more about the consequences, particularly in the farming and agricultural sector as this new report highlights. The only way to resolve the Brexit crisis now is to call a People’s Vote and let the public decide for themselves where they want to go from here.”