Brexit – Farming and Food
18th November 2016 by Jonathan Wingfield
I think that it is fair to say that most people have heard a lot about Brexit, we still don't have much of an idea of what is going to happen but we have been assured that "Brexit means Brexit". It's a bit like staying at a hotel and asking "what do you get for breakfast?" and getting the answer "breakfast means breakfast". What a statement, it answers nothing and commits to nothing but I hear it so often.
I look after a number of farming clients and there are some immediate concerns with Brexit. The first is the basic payment scheme, I have been to a number of seminars and it seems that most are in agreement that the government support will continue, in some shape or form, until 2020. However the final year of funding actually pays the 2019 payment, therefore funding may only be guaranteed until the 2019 scheme year. After this it is in the hands of our government, and, with ideas of "£350m per week for the NHS" there is going to be pressure on the funding for Basic Payment. Farming businesses will have to keep a close eye on how things develop and where possible ensure they are as ready as they can be for any reductions that may come, and most advisors are thinking there are going to be reductions.
There is currently emphasis on "food security". One point that has come across is that this is not the same as being self-sufficient. If the government are happy to source food from anywhere in the world, so that they can ensure that the British people have what is needed, then it could be considered that we have "food security". It is difficult to be truly self-sufficient today, due to the wealth of choice in our supermarkets but there must be scope for using British produce, which will have less air miles and be grown or reared to the high standards we know and expect. On top of this it seems worrying that we could soon potentially be in a market, outside of the EU, where we could have tariffs applied to our wheat, oilseed rape and barley crops being sold into Europe. Could we also choose not to apply any tariffs on our imports, pushing the price of these commodities down? Trade deals will need to be sorted and these take time, the government will have a lot to think about!
I would hope that the government value a balance of self-sufficiency and food security and support our British farmers with good trade deals to ensure sensible commodity prices. The industry supports more than just farmers, there is an enormous list of businesses that help and support agriculture and rely on it for income, together with providing great food for the British public. But it doesn't hurt to let people know this.
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