On his visit to Wales yesterday, alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was tight-lipped, although not yet ashen-faced, on the subject of farming. As the Guardian has reported, “Boris Johnson has declined to give specific details about how his government would help agriculture in the event of a no-deal Brexit, after farming groups said it would be catastrophic for the sheep and lamb industry”. There was more.
What do you think of it so far?
“During his farm visit, he declined twice to provide details on what sort of help farmers would get, beyond saying they had the support they needed and that the government would help them to find new markets if other ones became trickier to do business with. ‘We have interventions that are aimed to support them and their incomes,’ he added”.
Exactly what those interventions were, he wasn’t going to tell anyone until he had left Wales and was on his way to the next location where he would be roundly booed on arrival. But the numbers were no laughing matter: “Before the trip, Johnson was warned that 40% tariffs on meat exported to the EU could lead to the mass slaughter of sheep”.
It was bad: “Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union, said there would be no market for 40% of the UK’s lamb meat in the event of a no-deal Brexit … ‘You would be in oversupply because you wouldn’t be able to get over the barrier of a tariff to Europe,’ she said … She said … the government would need to look at forcing hospitals, schools and other public bodies to buy lamb meat”. And they have now looked.
So it was that Michael Hebditch of the Murdoch Times told “The Times understands that under plans being finalised by Michael Gove … the government will buy any lamb and beef at the point of slaughter at a predetermined price. The commitment, costing half a billion pounds a year, will also cover some crops”. And what crops might those be?
Is “Oiky” Gove thinking of also buying up all that sugar beet which will be undercut by cheap imports in the event of No Deal and a removal of tariff barriers? Because otherwise, that will be more farmers going out of business. And what about the dairy farmers who have diversified into specialist cheese making? They won’t be able to export to the EU. So presumably Mr Gove The Butcher will stock their produce as well.
Or will there also be Mr Gove The Ironmonger? As Daniel Knowles of The Economist has noted, “It is wild how much more coverage the Brexit threat to sheep exports (£300m a year) is getting than car exports (£34 *billion* a year)”. Maybe there won’t be any buying up, and the manufacturers - those still left - will just be bunged a subsidy equivalent to the EU tariff, with a little added on for increased supply chain costs?
Half a billion here, a few more billion there, soon it starts to add up - soon it will overhaul the UK’s current annual contribution to the EU budget. And, as the Guardian has pointed out, decisions need to be reached very soon: “Investment in Britain’s car industry has effectively stopped amid fears over Brexit, with a ‘pitiful’ £90m pledged for new developments in the first six months of this year … Before Brexit … the automotive industry was investing between £2.5bn and £2.7bn a year in research and development”.
There is no better deal than the one we have with the EU. The proposed antics of Mr Gove The Butcher underscore this. So when are the grownups going to stop this idiocy?
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