The worse-case scenario for the UK sheep sector, a ‘no deal’ on Brexit, is a possibility the sheep sector needs to prepare for, according to the National Sheep Association (NSA).
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Given that the vast majority of the 35% of UK lamb exported from the UK goes into the EU, we absolutely do not want a no deal on Brexit. However, it would be irresponsible not to be ready and prepare for this possibility. That means stepping up efforts to open up new export markets outside of the EU, doing much more to boost domestic demand for sheepmeat, and protecting ourselves from imports. These are all things that will make sense for the sector even if we do get a deal, so it’s a win-win to do put the work in now.
Mr Stocker was speaking at the opening ceremony of NSA Sheep 2018, held today (Wednesday 18thJuly) at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. He was joined by Lord Inglewood, NSA President, who explained the role of the House of Lords in the ongoing Brexit negotiations in Westminster. Farming Minister George Eustice, who sent a pre-prepared video message for the event, was unable to attend in person because of those negotiations, having to be in the Houses of Parliament for key votes this week.
Mr Stocker said: “Negotiations could still go very badly wrong and there is a risk we could crash out, fall back to WTO rules and face huge trade disruption – so we need to be ready and that is why it’s important to prepare for a no deal.
“All the consultations and white papers to date include a lot of welcome words, but the careful choice of words can be interpreted as being encouraging almost from wherever you sit, and it cannot be long now before more detail will have to come through and decisions be made. Words are easy to say. Putting them into action is another matter and that is where we now need to focus our attention.”
With the future of trade very much in the hands of the politicians, Mr Stocker went on to speak about areas where NSA is working with partner organisations to resolve problems the sheep sector has been facing for some time, including increasing domestic and international consumption of sheepmeat, traceability and sheep movement reporting, carcase splitting, price reporting and carcase classification, and sheep farming living alongside the natural environment.”
Mr Stocker said: “Using Brexit and the taking back control of some our regulatory functions, and a growing change of attitude within Government departments to want to support industry rather than constantly being fearful of compliance with EU regulations, there are real opportunities to make progress.”
The opening ceremony was just one of several features at NSA Sheep 2018, an event bringing together sheep farmers, Government officials, key decision makers and trade organisations from across the UK sheep sector. More at www.sheepevent.org.uk.