It is widely claimed that a majority of farmers voted to Brexit. Whatever the truth, Michael Gove says leaving the EU without a deal would be bad for both the short and long-term stability of agriculture. I would only fault the phrase ‘without a deal.’ Theresa May, mired in delusion, says she wants ‘frictionless’ trade with the EU post Brexit, but realists know this can only be achieved if the UK remains a member of both the single market and the customs union. This Common Market 2.0 Brexit, as it is now known, relegates the UK to a non-voting, rule-taking EU member but it would mean no change for UK agriculture’s trading environment and, I believe, continued membership of the CAP. The very idea that in this situation the EU, let alone Westminster and the devolved administrations would be prepared to phase out UK farm support payments is preposterous.
Common Market 2.0 amounts to a pointless Brexit, and when given the opportunity people would vote to remain. In fact, the only realistic – but painful Brexit – is a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU. Even if the UK ‘crashed out’ to apply WTO tariffs – now extremely unlikely – once the dust settled, we would desperately seek to negotiate what is referred to as a Canada-plus FTA. That is, a more comprehensive agreement than the 2017, EU-Canada FTA to enable continued, but less favourable access to the single market for financial services et al. Evidence suggests that this would take four or more years to negotiate.
23rd April 2019