The transport minister Chris Grayling appeared on the Andrew Marr Show Sunday stating that Brexit is an opportunity to “reverse the downward trend” in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food but that markets should not be closed off.
Mr Grayling said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK would respond by growing more produce and importing from more places around the world, in order to prevent a rise of food prices.
NFU director of EU Exit and International Trade Nick von Westenholz said: “UK farmers know that there will be opportunities arising from leaving the EU, including increasing the amount of home-grown food consumed by the British public. However, given the extent of our trade in food with the EU, failure to secure a comprehensive trade deal would cause considerable disruption to farming in the UK. Although there is some scope for import substitution, farming operates on long timescales. For example, the first crop to be produced post-Brexit will be in the ground in less than a year.
“Furthermore, due to the amount of food we import that isn’t grown here, as well as issues such as managing carcass balance, simply upping production to quickly offset any reduction in food imports isn’t feasible.
“In the long term Brexit will offer new opportunities that farmers will be eager to take, but in the meantime the UK must maintain clear and free trade flows with the EU where the vast majority of our food exports are headed. Over the next few weeks, the NFU are embarking on a series of Brexit Roadshows across the country in which we will discuss the sorts of challenges and opportunities facing UK farmers in the near future.”
NFU vice-president Guy Smith commenting on Twitter said: “What was it Eisenhower said about farming looking mighty easy when your plough is a pencil.”