No Deal catastrophic for livestock farmers

Hot off the Lib Dem press, pointing out the devastating effects of a No Deal to farmers:

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat DEFRA Spokesperson, today challenged the Government’s no deal planning which he described as “catastrophic” for rural communities.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr. Carmichael said:

Can I tell the Minister that I very much agree with him when he talks of Europe as a key export market for our Lamb producers and hill farmers. 160 of his colleagues last night voted for a no deal Brexit, including the Hon. Member who asked the question [Chris Davies, Brecon and Radnorshire] a no deal Brexit could expose lamb exports to a 12.8% plus €171.3/100kg tariff. Is that going to be good for our sheep farmers?

Responding on behalf of the Government, the Rt. Hon. Robert Goodwill, Minister of State for Fishing and Farming, said:

The best way to prevent a situation in which we have a no deal Brexit is to vote for the deal. Nothing yesterday was supported by the House. The deal is the best thing for agriculture, the best thing for future, and the best thing for a long-term relationship between ourselves and the European Union.

Speaking after the exchange, Mr. Carmichael added:

For Brexiteers to talk about the post-Brexit farming industry being of “paramount importance” while cheerfully voting for a no-deal Brexit that could destroy it, smacks of hypocrisy. Our hill farmers need to realise that those who promote no-deal Brexit are not on their side. They are prepared to damage the livelihoods of our livestock farmers to pursue their Brexit unicorns.

The test for any deal the Government comes back with for our rural communities, must be whether it allows them to continue to access key European export markets. No-deal clearly fails that fundamental test and will make our farmers and crofters worse off.

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19 Comments

  • Peter Martin 28th Mar '19 - 1:34pm

    I’ve heard the argument that UK farmers won’t have much of a market for their sheep and dairy produce etc after Brexit. Consequently the low prices they will have to accept will drive them into bankruptcy.

    On the other hand, food will become much more expensive because of extra tariffs on imported products.

    So these arguments can’t both be right. There could perhaps be a shift in the type of food we eat. Maybe more UK produced food? Is that really such a bad thing?

  • chris moore 28th Mar '19 - 2:01pm

    1.Import tariffs into the EU imposed on British sheep exports will markedly reduce sales there. (Or UK sheep farmers will have to reduce their EXPORT prices and so get significantly less income. marginal producers will go out of business.)

    2. Jenny, you rightly say that the lion’s share of lamb imports to the UK come from New Zealand. Over 70%. Another 15% or so comes from Australia. So those imports will not change in price after a No-Deal Brexit So competition in the home market will be almost as fierce.

    3. The EU is a relatively minor exporter of lamb to the UK , acccounting for around 10%
    of total lamb imports. We might expect these products to be less competitive – but we are not sure what the UK governemnt will do with respect to tariffs on EU products.

    4 Overall, it’s going to be a considerable negative for British lamb farmers. But lamb prices shouldn’t rise in the short run for British consumers. In the medium and long run they may, as British sheep farmers will go out of business.

    5. However, if the pound is weakened after a no-deal Brexit, this will make British exports cheaper than they would otherwise be, which will counteract some of the negative effect of tariffs. Also, it would make British lamb more competitive in the home market by making imports dearer.

    6. Nonetheless, an even weaker pound is not desirable for several other wider reasons!

  • chris moore 28th Mar '19 - 2:18pm

    I should add there is a complicating factor of British consumers preferring certain cuts of meat – this favours the Antipodean producers.

    This makes it more diffiicult for British farmers to re-orient their production to British tastes. For some, it’s unlikely to be possible.

  • Peter Watson 28th Mar '19 - 3:07pm

    @chris moore “there is a complicating factor of British consumers preferring certain cuts of meat – this favours the Antipodean producers”
    … with their six legged sheep? 😉

  • @ Peter Watson. Don’t bother to visit the Lake District, Wales, the Yorkshire Dales or the Highlands for your holidays in a few years time, Mr Watson. Scrubland will have ‘taken back control’.

  • Ah David but it will he English scrublands, none of your furrin stuff.

    Being serious the reason why New Zealand and Australia can export the lambs legs we prefer is because the other cuts are sold to other countries. Often to the detriment of the consumers health.

    How mutton flaps are killing Tonga
    One of the main causes is a cheap, fatty kind of meat – mutton flaps – imported from New Zealand.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35346493

  • David Becket 28th Mar '19 - 10:26pm

    We visit every year a farming family in in the hills above Kirkcudbright. In total the family have over 4000 acres of moorland, full of sheep. Almost every lamb goes to France. They can see the end of their business, and a return to Galloway scrublands.

  • Arnold Kiel 29th Mar '19 - 7:49am

    Agriculture and fisheries are as integrated across Europe as is manufacturing. I know the CAP is very unpopular in the UK, but it is backed by France, Italy, Spain, etc., countries with a strong agricultural lobby. Compare this with the support UK agriculture will receive from a Johnson-led government after it has effectively exited the customs union and the single market. Destitute rural areas will compete with further deindustrialising towns for dwindling public funds.

  • Peter Martin 29th Mar '19 - 9:53am

    …….for dwindling public funds. ???

    Why should they dwindle? The £ is an IOU of government. Neither you, I nor our government can run out of IOUs. If the economy starts to overheat after Brexit then the Govt should cut back its spending and maybe raise taxes, but I don’t think you are predicting that!

    It would be a good problem to have!

  • Peter Martin 29th Mar '19 - 9:59am

    @ David Becket,

    So your friends in Galloway will be going out of business because they can’t sell their sheep. This, at the same time as everyone else in the UK is going hungry because we can’t afford EU food due to imposed tariffs?

  • Depopulation and scrublands are good for the environment. You cannot have huge meat industries, endless building projects and a constantly expanding population in a small fixed landmass as well as green policies. Oh we need hundreds of thousands of homes a year, but don’t worry about the lost environment, water shortages, drainage, increased sewage, extra roads, extra air travel, and billions of more tons of landfill coz we a vague hope that renewable energy will work out.

  • This, at the same time as everyone else in the UK is going hungry because we can’t afford EU food due to imposed tariffs?
    What tariffs, Peter? My understanding is that most of the food we import already from both the EU and from elsewhere such as Africa carries a zero tariff.

    What I find interesting, which no one seems to have picked up on, is that the UK government earlier this month announced their proposed post-Brexit tariff card which had zero tariffs on many foods, but tariffs on a few to protect “UK farmers”; however, what is surprising to see is the rush in which the government has reduced the proposed tariffs because of complaints from external suppliers. This action speaks volumes for the various claims of being able to “negotiate our own trade agreements” – basically we will ‘negotiate’ but will cave in at the slightest hint of objection by potential trading partners…

    What was also missed was that in making their zero trade tariff announcement, the government expected consumer prices to increase, despite zero tariffs…

  • So Peter Martin and the anonymous Glenn don’t care about the destruction of hill farming in the UK, they don’t care about the destruction of the beauty of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District, Dartmoor, the Welsh and Scottish hills. They don’t seem to get it that the sheep make the landscape in these beautiful areas, they don’t get it that our hill farmers represent the best sort of hardworking in all weathers round the clock so called Britishness. They don’t care that the NFU is now on suicide alert in Cumbria and the hill farming areas. In short, they just don’t care.

    Shame on them. Shame on them for their lack of understanding about the ecology of the marginal land and hill farm areas. They want to wave their tattered union jacks and display their ignorance in a new wasteland……. so much for patriotism and singing about a new Jerusalem in ‘England’s green and pleasant land’.

    Others must decide whether they are lacking in intelligence

  • chris moore 29th Mar '19 - 2:09pm

    @Peter Watson 28th Mar ’19 – 3:07pm
    @chris moore “there is a complicating factor of British consumers preferring certain cuts of meat – this favours the Antipodean producers”
    … with their six legged sheep?

    That’s one of your better ones, Peter.

    Could I suggest you do a bit of research about styles of lamb production in the UK/ Antipodes? Then you’ll see the point I was trying to make.

    If there’s a No-Deal Brexit and consequent EU import tariffs on exported British lamb, UK sheep farmers are going to sell less and with a reduced margin into the EU. In an ideal world, they’d be able to change their mode/style of production to appeal more to home consumers. But that would take time and capital expenditure. Many UK sheep farmers will go out of business.

    If we’ve got to Brexit, do it with a customs’ unión.

  • chris moore 29th Mar '19 - 2:18pm

    @ Peter Martin. you say
    @ David Becket,
    So your friends in Galloway will be going out of business because they can’t sell their sheep. This, at the same time as everyone else in the UK is going hungry because we can’t afford EU food due to imposed tariffs?

    UK sheep farmers will definitely go out of business, if we’re out of a customs’ unión.

    As for consumer prices, the lion’s share of lamb in the UK comes from Down Under; so there’d little direct impact of a No-Deal Brexit on UK consumer prices of lamb.

    Some post No-Deal economic scenarios could see government reducing interest rates to “prop up” the economy and a weakening pound. This would push up consumer prices in general.

    But surely, the UK government would generally choose NOT to impose import tariffs. if it does in certain sectors, then this would again push up consumer prices in those sectors.

    So there are scenarios in which you could have a GENERAL rise in prices AND UK sheep farmers going to the wall.

  • Peter Martin 29th Mar '19 - 2:19pm

    @ David Raw,

    “So Peter Martin and the anonymous Glenn don’t care about the destruction of hill farming in the UK “

    I certainly haven’t said that and neither has Glenn as far as I can see.

    We’ve farmed sheep on the hills before the existence of the EU and we’ll farm sheep long after it’s ceased to exist.

    If the good people of Europe don’t want to buy UK agricultural produce then that has to be their call. But as the we need to produce as much food as we can to feed an ever larger population, there’s no need for UK farmers to worry unduly about their future. As Jenny put it previously “this is not a showstopper”!

  • David Raw
    I’m a vegetarian.. So to be blunt I do not care about the meat industry.
    It’s actually people who think they can build endlessly and expand endlessly who are destroying the country’s green belts. Get on a train and you will see just how much of the countryside is being ploughed under to put up one ugly housing development after the other. Then multiply it by the desire to build 300,000more homes a year, then add the extra, waste. traffic, pollution. utilities needed, and then try to square it with so called green policies?

  • chris moore 30th Mar '19 - 7:40am

    Sheep farmers are worried about a No-Deal Brexit because lots of them will go out of business.

    It’s simply not possible to re-orient production rapidly in the way you are taking for granted.

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