Farmers issue 'no deal' Brexit warning to next Prime Minister

Boris Johnson, who campaigned to leave the European Union in 2016, is currently the favourite to succeed Theresa May
Boris Johnson, who campaigned to leave the European Union in 2016, is currently the favourite to succeed Theresa May

Farmers have issued a plea to the next Prime Minister to secure a 'sensible' transitional agreement with the EU in order to achieve a 'soft landing' when exiting the bloc.

Theresa May will leave Number 10 on June 7, paving the way for leadership hopefuls in the Conservative Party to battle it out to replace her.

Former foreign secretary and mayor of London Boris Johnson is an early favourite for the leadership contest, with Defra Secretary Michael Gove and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab trailing some way behind.

Former Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom has also thrown her hat in the ring, as has Sajid Javid and Esther McVey.

Whoever wins the leadership contest, the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said it is 'essential' that they work to avoid a 'cliff edge' no-deal Brexit.

It comes as the newly-formed Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage, wins the most seats in the UK in the recent European Parliament elections.

But the TFA has concerns that the Conservative Party leadership hopefuls may enact 'knee-jerk' policies as a result of the elections, which saw the Tories heavily defeated.

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said: “Outcomes, such as those we have seen from last week’s European Parliament elections, can tempt those who have gained to become vitriolic, whilst those losing ground feel forced into making knee-jerk reactions to refocus their campaign agendas.

“However, what we need is for all sides to work constructively to find a new dynamic that will take us through these turbulent, political times.

“Taking full advantage of the long-term opportunities from leaving the European Union whilst, at the same time, safeguarding ourselves from some of the challenges we will face, will take skill and diplomacy,” he said.

Stalled Agriculture Bill

The group is also pushing for the government to get on with the necessary work in putting together the new agricultural and environmental policies required for life after the European Union.

It comes as the Agriculture Bill appears to have stalled. It has not been seen since it completed Committee stage in the House of Commons last autumn.

Mr Dunn said debating the amendments in the bill must begin, adding: “If this is the legislation around which our new policy for farming and the farmed environment is to be framed, we need to get on with debating the amendments that have been tabled and achieving Royal Assent.”

Listen to agricultural communities

Meanwhile, presidents from the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and Ulster Farmers' Union have called on the newly-elected UK MEPs to listen to the views of their agricultural communities.

In a joint statement, they said: “The newly elected UK MEPs will take their seats in the European Parliament in July and it is crucial they recognise the significant role they will play in shaping the policies that impact on farming businesses.

“This new parliament will be pivotal in determining the nature of our future regulatory environment and we are keen and ready to meet with them.”

They added: “There will be a number of new faces from the UK taking up their seats as MEPs from the start of July and we want to ensure they understand how important our industry is for the economy, for the food chain and for the environment.

“We also want to continue engaging with familiar faces who were successfully elected for another term.”

Who is standing to replace Theresa May?

Defra Secretary Michael Gove

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Home Secretary Sajid Javid

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom

Housing minister Kit Malthouse

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart

Brexit minister James Cleverly