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Political Affairs Manager's Blog - 2 August 2019

Can we find a ‘no ifs, no buts’ Brexit deal that works for Scottish farmers and crofters asks NFU Scotland Political Affairs Manager Clare Slipper?

A few hours into his premiership, the new Prime Minister set about one of the biggest government reshuffles that has been seen in recent memory.

Out went a procession of well-kent faces, many of whom held very senior positions within Theresa May’s Cabinet, and some of whom NFU Scotland has worked with closely over several years.
 
One casualty of the reshuffle was David Mundell, a long-standing Secretary of State for Scotland. Meanwhile, Michael Gove was promoted to a strategic position within the Cabinet Office as Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster – making way for the seventh Secretary of State at Defra in under a decade.

This new Cabinet is a different beast, for changed times under the direction of a new Prime Minister who we probably don’t have the measure of yet. 

NFU Scotland, first and foremost, is a lobbying organisation and so begins the process of building new relationships.

Hot on the heels of his appointment, the new Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack MP, met with NFU Scotland representatives this week at Stranraer Show where a positive and constructive discussion was held on future agricultural policy and funding; live animal exports; and future immigration arrangements.

NFU Scotland is also seeking a meeting with the newly appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Theresa Villiers MP, as soon as possible.

Furthermore, letters will be issued in the coming days to the Home Office, HM Treasury, Department for International Trade and Department for Exiting the European Union – setting out in the clearest terms what it is NFU Scotland expects from the new government.

Those expectations remain unchanged from 2016 – a deal on free and frictionless trade with the EU; a fully funded support system for Scottish agriculture; and an immigration system that meets the needs of the agriculture, food and drink labour market.

However, the tone of this new government regarding the terms on which the UK will leave the EU means that these expectations are taking on a new urgency. With the rhetoric around a possible No Deal exit ramping up, NFU Scotland is lobbying at the highest levels to ensure that this is not – to use Michael Gove’s words – the ‘working assumption’ of the government and that a favourable Withdrawal Agreement is found before the 31 October deadline.

Having undertaken analysis on what the impacts of a No Deal exit would be, NFU Scotland strongly believes that it would be hugely damaging to the whole UK agricultural sector, with the application of tariffs on exports and the removal of import tariffs on some products creating an uneven playing field and exposing the sector to uncompetitive imports.

In our recent Brexit and Business Confidence survey of our membership, 64% of members said they felt a No Deal exit would have a ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’ impact on their business.

That is why the President of NFU Scotland has written to all 8,500 members this week encouraging them to engage with their MPs to push the UK Government to find a Brexit deal that works for the sector – this time stealing words from the new Prime Minister – ‘no ifs, no buts’.
 
Whilst NFU Scotland believes that finding a deal on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU is absolutely vital, it equally as vital for businesses to prepare if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The UK Government has published guidance for businesses on how they should prepare for a no deal Brexit, and there is a wealth of information online that can assist you in making preparations. Visit https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/brexit.aspx for more information and links. 

Author: Clare Slipper

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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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