Farmers across Staffordshire have blasted the current Brexit process as ‘chaotic’ and ‘silly.’ – with just 42 days until the UK is set to leave the EU.
Across the county there are 94 farms, covering a total of 8600 acres, exporting to all corners of the UK and to countries all over the world.
Speaking to StaffsLive, Mark Fallows of Eavesford Farm, Whiston, said: “The trouble is, like all industries, there’s so much bureaucracy involved in staying in the European Union.
“We’ve spoken with French farmers, and what they’ve said to us is ‘the British are foolish,’ but we can only carry on our business as we’re going on.
“With agriculture, you can’t just turn the tap off and say ‘we won’t milk those cows’, it has to be planned. It can take six months to shut down – if we’re lucky. In terms of preparing for the future, we can only hope leaving will benefit us.”
Earlier this month Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “Millions are being spent every day in no-deal planning and contingency plans for the food industry. Businesses are having to invest so much money to protect us from an inept Parliament.
“This will break some businesses.”
A Copa-Cogeca survey found that 84 per cent of farmers are concerned about rising prices, ‘sheep meat’ exports and farmland sales. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, large tariffs would be imposed across the farming sector, resulting in a sharp decline in farm incomes.
Staffordshire farmers, who largely export beef and dairy produce, fear a no-deal Brexit could wipe them out of business – erasing centuries of family tradition and business in the region.
Ian Fallows, who manages the farm, told StaffsLive: “If leaving doesn’t benefit us, we will probably go out of business.
“We’re quite dependent on them [EU] and the subsidies are there so we can produce the food as cheap as we can to allow the consumer to buy the product cheaper.
“If they take the subsidies away from us, the price of our produce will have to increase, affecting the consumer.”
Early post-Brexit plans suggested a seven-year transition scheme from EU subsidies to UK alternatives. H
In the worst-case scenario, all subsidies could halt at a cliff edge, a prospect which does not appeal to Fallows.
He said: “We wouldn’t be in business without the subsidies.
“If we don’t leave on the 29 March, I won’t ever vote again. It was a democratic process, and we all voted.
“If we don’t leave, this whole process will just be a silly waste. It’s been chaos, and I just cant’ wait until it’s over and we leave. Then we can have certainty.
“Without certainty, we can’t plan.”
A letter seen by i News signed by Ian Wright CBE, of the Food and Drink Federation, urged Michael Gove – the current Environment Secretary – to pause consultations on goods, farming and environmental issues.
In the letter, more than 30 food industry bodies warned they will stop co-operating with Government consultations on Brexit as they brace themselves for the “catastrophic impact” of an increasingly likely no-deal Brexit.
They wrote: “At present, a no-deal Brexit looks ever more the likeliest outcome.
“Businesses throughout the UK food chain – and their trade associations – are now totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit. Large amounts of time, money, people and effort are being diverted to that end.
”We very strongly urge
One of the leading figures behind the ‘Leave’ campaign of 2016, Michael Gove has come under fire for a tweet made in April 2016, where he wrote ‘the day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.’
EU leaders – and the Environment Secretary’s own party – continue to act in defiance of this sentiment. In January Theresa May suffered the biggest government defeat in Parliament’s history, followed by another historic Brexit amendment defeat weeks later.
The Brexit gears seem to grind slower and slower as the 29 March approached, inching towards a no-deal scenario becoming a reality.