Thursday, May 23, 2019

Government ‘pledges Brexit support for UK sheep sector’

March 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Sheep sector leaders say the government has pledged to cushion the industry from the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

National Sheep Association representatives attended two top level meetings with Defra officials last month. They said Defra had offered assurances it would step protect the sector if a no-deal or hard Brexit caused market difficulties.

It follows contingency planning meetings where industry leaders discussed what might be needed if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal on 29 March – a situation critics fear could restrict lamb export ands cause a significant drop in prices.

Support structure

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said various options for government support were discussed. The sector faced short term and longer-term challenges – and and both would need different, but complementary approaches, he said.

“In the long term our markets and our farm support structure will change.

“The industry will need to be innovative and adaptable and respond to these changes, but if we do leave the EU in a way that suddenly negatively affects our industry then there are few options other than Government support to carry it through.

“There is absolutely not enough fat on our industry to expect it to do that alone.”

Mr Stocker’s comments followed a meeting between Defra minister George Eustice and the UK Livestock Brexit Group, which represents almost 30 livestock related trade associations and other industry bodies.

Sheep markets

“In early October the NSA issued a statement with the intention of starting a conversation over the steps that would be needed if Brexit resulted in a collapse of our sheep markets. The threat is still that we temporarily lose our entire access to the EU market.

“We would regain that access, but with tariffs that would make trade unviable. This could then result in a flood of lamb onto our domestic market that would result in price crashes. The effect of this on farm livelihoods, mental health, and animal welfare could be catastrophic.” 

Ministers had underline their support for the British sheep industry, said Mr Stocker. And they recognised the sector’s economic, environmental and social benefits – and intended to provide financial support in the case of market difficulties.

‘Huge breakthrough’

“This support will maintain the sector’s capacity and ensure it can regain and build on existing markets. That is a huge breakthrough and one that gives us confidence that we can enter this lambing period with a greater level of assurance than was previously the case.”

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