This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
proceedings at their formal occasions. In the context of Brexit, there was bound to be especial interest in the proceedings of the National Farmers Union’s annual shindig that, this year, took place in the leafy environs of Birmingham and, in particular, in the remarks made by DEFRA Secretary, Andrea Leadsom. The latter can be said to have form in the context of the Brexit

debate and the future of agriculture in the UK. While government has said that the present levels of farm support would remain in place until, at least, 2020, Ms Leadsom has, in the past, made remarks that hinted of her desire to get rid of farm subsidies in their entirety. Given her previous pronouncements, it might have been expected that Ms Leadsom’s keynote address would have been scrutinised with particular care for indications as to how the government’s negotiations as regards the future of agriculture in the UK was developing. However, in the final analysis, answers were few and far between. Ms Leadsom said that DEFRA was working against a background

of a number of basic principles regarding UK agriculture post Brexit. These were free trade, a ‘more productive labour force’, incentives to encourage farmers to maintain and improve the environment; an increased emphasis on animal health and welfare as well as and plant health and, finally, an ‘economically resilient sector. All fine and dandy, you may say and admirable as individual

objectives but how do we fit them into a coherent whole. Free trade is, probably, the most contentious item in terms of UK agriculture. There are many countries that have significant comparative advantages over the UK where different sectors of agriculture are concerned. Where beef is an issue, Brazil is probably the country that springs to mind as the major threat to UK beef producers in the context of free trade. The number of countries that could undercut UK cereal growers under the same assumption is also significant. In short, free trade is an admirable objective in theory but carries a number of important caveats in its baggage, many of which would pose a significant threat to farmers in the UK working within the present bounds of the Common Agriculture Policy. Where does the NFU stand on all this? President Meurig Raymond

said that the NFU was working on a UK agriculture policy that would seek to justify support payments for agriculture aimed at using Research and Development together with investment in technology and improved training and education to improve productivity in the industry. Perhaps most intriguingly, the NFU highlighted methods to help

protect UK agriculture ‘against volatile world markets’; these would presumably include the development of futures instruments and insurances. In response to one aspect of particular concern to UK farmers, Mrs Leadsom said that any deal regarding seasonable labour availability would depend on agreeing corresponding and equivalent rights for UK citizens working in the EU. I have to say that I am very sensible of Deputy NFU Present,

Minette Batters point, that DEFRA omitted to make provision for the proverbial Plan B to take effect in the event of a ‘Leave’ vote on 23 June. Albeit it is always easier to be wise after the event, the absence


of multiple Plan B preparation was a very general phenomenon in the UK. Ms Batters, who is strongly tipped in some quarters as a future NFU President, argued that it was ‘crucial’ that DEFRA should now draw up what amounted to a full impact assessment regarding the effects of what may fairly be regarded as ‘a hard Brexit’ on the rural economy of the UK. Mrs Leadsom may or may not have been impressed by the fact that a show of hands by the conference floor showed that the majority of delegates had no confidence in the proposition that the government would be able to defend the industry’s interests in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. A large section of opinion at the conference agreed that Ian

Wright, Director-General of the Food & Drink Federation, presented one of the best conference addresses. Ian Wright observed that, although there were great opportunities

in the longer term for the UK outside the EU, the prospects were for what he described as the potential chaos in the short-to-medium term of ‘crashing out’ of the EU in two years’ time without a deal, thus positioning himself firmly outside the Prime Minister’s court following her suggestion that ‘No Deal was better than a Bad Deal’ – whatever this was supposed to mean. Should a Bad Deal mean the sudden imposition of border checks and tariffs, this would quickly seize up the system; one quails at imagining the effects on trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, (although the locals would probably find some imaginative ways of getting around the situation). Mr Wright went on to say that, in the likely failure to reach a

comprehensive agreement within the two-year period provided for by Article 50, then what he called transitional arrangement were absolutely essential. Mr Wright added that government must deliver on its commitment to what he referred to as ‘frictionless borders’, a commitment that applied particularly in the case of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic since, he argued, that any trade barrier there would be ‘unworkable’. Mr Wright said that there were two hundred roads that crossed the border between the Republic and the six counties; and even at the height of the late and unlamented troubles, only twenty of them were policed. A good conference then, even though many delegates will have left with more questions than answers in their mind.

Editor’s Notebook is sponsored by Compound Feed Engineering Ltd

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76