NFU slams government's 'lack of action' as concerns remain

The NFU said there is a 'lack of action' from government despite reassurances from PM Boris Johnson of the importance of farming
The NFU said there is a 'lack of action' from government despite reassurances from PM Boris Johnson of the importance of farming

The NFU has slammed the government's 'exasperating lack of action' as 'fundamental concerns' remain unaddressed on the future of British farming.

With 19 days to Brexit, and the aspect of a no-deal still in place, the NFU says numerous industry issues have not been remedied.

The union's president, Minette Batters, said that, despite verbal reassurances from ministers including the prime minister of the importance of the farming sector to government, action has yet to be seen.

She said: “The government appears to be consistently passing up opportunities to ensure British farmers and the food they produce are shielded from the worst impacts of a no-deal Brexit.

“This is clearly not in the country’s best interests or those of us who value a supply of home-grown British food.”

The industry has concerns that the government is continuing to fail to act on issues such as protecting UK standards in trade agreements, export restrictions and import tariff protection.

There is growing uncertainty over possible plans to liberalise the UK market in the event of a no-deal Brexit; opening up the domestic market to imports of sub-standard food.

Mrs Batters added: “This is absolutely terrible news for farmers whose businesses will be under threat, but also for the public who enjoy high-quality and affordable British food.”

Meanwhile, higher taxes on exports of beef, sheep, poultry, pigs, dairy and arable products would add up to more that £1.36bn, as no-deal means the UK being forced to trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Unless European consumers are happy to pay considerably more to continue enjoying British products, the NFU says it would come off the bottom line of UK farm incomes.

“This will make farming unviable for many businesses, often small family farms in rural communities across the UK,” the NFU president said.

Farm bodies and unions have consistently raised the issue of how to protect food, animal welfare and environmental standards, which would come under serious pressure in the event of no-deal.

Despite assurances from government that they would establish a commission bringing government and stakeholders together to examine how best to achieve this, the industry has seen no concrete action.

Farmers are also facing the major problem of recruitment as some sectors witness a decline in the number of farm workers, who mainly stem from the EU.

Mrs Batters said: “Many farmers are beginning to despair. We have consistently set out our vision on how to make a success of Brexit for British food and farming.

“But this simply won’t be possible if we leave without a deal, and the damage will only be exacerbated if the government continues to fail to back British farmers.

“I reiterate my comments earlier this week that farmers feel abandoned and betrayed by this government’s failure to avoid the chaos of a catastrophic no-deal.

“I call on government to address our serious concerns, ensure that any Brexit is an orderly one and back British food and farming.”

The NFU has published a list of 20 Brexit facts for farmers who are preparing their businesses for a no-deal departure as the 31 October deadline nears.