The President of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Minette Batters, claims that Brexit is as disruptive as the outbreak of a disease for farmers and it has forced businesses to spend “millions” in preparing for it.
According to Ms Batters, millions are being spent every day in planning for the possibility of ‘no deal’ and contingency plans for the food industry, and this could be breaking some businesses.
She added that what is happening currently is like disease crisis management, and went on to say that a disorderly Brexit could have as much impact on farming as the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001.
Moreover, the NFU president pointed out that food is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector and yet it has not hit the headlines on the scale of Nissan’s decision to scale back investment in the UK, for example.
As Ms Batters highlighted, many of the UK’s key food companies are foreign owned, and these firms could decide to move elsewhere in Europe. However, the concerns of farmers and the food supply chain are less obvious than in concentrated industries, such as car-making, because they are more diverse and spread across the UK.
Therefore, the NFU is calling on the European Union to put in place emergency measures that would ensure that the UK’s farm and food products were treated in the short term as compliant with EU standards, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The NFU also wants to see high standards for food products enshrined in UK legislation rather than be “left up for grabs” in trade deal negotiations. As Ms Batters pointed out, the NFU believes in animal welfare, the future of the environment and food safety. Therefore, there must be a black and white policy statement agreed that will be in future free trade agreements.