Political Affairs Manager Blog - 15 November

After another tumultuous few days in the Brexit saga, NFU Scotland’s Political Affairs Manager Clare Slipper asks where is the certainty and confidence for Scottish farmers and crofters?

From the immediate outset of the Brexit referendum result, NFU Scotland has outlined that for its members, a ‘good deal’ will be one which ensures:

1.  Trade: Free and frictionless trade with the EU is continued, with no tariffs or non-tariff barriers introduced. Also for any new trade deals with international partners to ensure Scotland’s extremely high standards of production are upheld, with no possibility of Scottish food producers being undercut by cheaper imports produced to lower standards. In order to achieve this, it is the preference of NFU Scotland for the UK to remain within the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

2.  Labour: Continued access to workers from the EU and outside the EU, to take up posts on a seasonal and permanent, ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’, on-farm and off-farm basis.

3.  Support: The UK leaves the Common Agricultural Policy and the devolved authorities have the powers to develop and implement new agricultural policies, fully funded, that genuinely deliver for the unique agricultural characteristics of their nations.

Above all, the most important ‘ask’ of governments has been to provide certainty and confidence to Scottish farmers and crofters; certainty on what the future will look like, and confidence to plan ahead.

NFU Scotland has not been alone in asking this of governments. After all, NFU Scotland members are businesspeople – and it is obvious that business and industry need a clear steer on the outcomes of what is one of the biggest political upheavals of a generation.
Whatever the outcome of Brexit, NFU Scotland will measure the final outcome against these tests.

For a few hours, it seemed as though the Prime Minister had finally won over her opponents in striking a Brexit deal that was acceptable both to the EU negotiators and the UK Cabinet. Today, however, has been a different story.

The opposition parties are fairly unanimous in mutual disdain of this draft withdrawal agreement. But the most violent reaction to the draft agreement has come from within the Prime Minister’s own party – with a raft of government ministers stepping down, and MPs publicly announcing that they have submitted letters of ‘no confidence’ in the hope of sparking a leadership contest. At the time of writing, a leadership contest seems to be looming closer.

Whilst some MPs have spoken out in support of the draft agreement, it appears that in light of the political reaction to the draft agreement the parliamentary arithmetic will not win a vote in favour of the draft Withdrawal Agreement. Whilst the Prime Minister has tried to couch the draft Withdrawal Agreement as ‘this deal, or no deal’ it is the view of NFU Scotland that there would also not be a parliamentary majority in favour of a ‘no deal’ as an alternative.

This means that the likely outcome, in the event that the deal is not passed in the Commons, is that the UK Government requests an extension to the Article 50 period so that it can either:

a)    Renegotiate the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

b)    Hold a General Election in the hope that a majority party will be elected which has an agreed approach towards the ‘type of Brexit’ which the UK should pursue.

c)    Hold a second referendum on leaving the EU. Take note, should this come to pass, and the UK votes to remain within the EU, its highly likely that the UK’s place in the EU could then be subject to renegotiation, with some suggesting that the Euro and the UK’s financial rebate being up for discussion.

The below table crudely sets out how some of the possible outcomes might, or might not, deliver on those asks. Clearly, there are very significant political hurdles which will inevitably impact the final terms of each of these outcomes.

It doesn’t look as though things will become any more certain or confident any time soon.      

Author: Clare Slipper

Date Published:

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About The Author

Clare Slipper

Clare Slipper joined NFU Scotland in 2014 as the Union’s first dedicated Parliamentary Officer. Within her role, Clare briefs politicians in the Scottish, Westminster and European parliaments on key issues impacting Scottish food producers and represents members interests in the policy-making process. Clare started her career working for a public affairs and communications agency, where she worked with clients in the renewable energy and planning sectors. She graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Politics and Sociology in 2012.

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