Two important years facing industry

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NFU Cereals vice-chairman Guy Smith speaking at The Cereals event yesterday wondered if the current political confusion was a media construct. He pointed out that both main party leaders were only a few hundred votes in marginal constituencies from forming a majority government. He also pointed out that we are faced with two important years, which will colour the fortunes of the industry for a generation.

He went on to say: “Put yourself in the minds of the MPs. How many of them would want to go back out and immediately campaign in another election. The Tories will be saying even if we have a 50 point lead I’m not sure we should risk another election, I wonder if any Labour MPs, many of whom were only a year away from placing a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn are possibly thinking he might have reached his zenith. I think in British elections there is an element of disaffection. A lot of people out there voted against the establishment last year in the referendum, and in this election, they saw Corbyn as the anti-establishment figure. Now he has become more mainstream, people might back away from him. So maybe we have got this Parliament for a longer period of time than the media will have us believe.

“With regards to Brexit and have things changed, we in the NFU have always been keen that we keep as much open tariff free trade as possible. We are even less sure how the negotiation will shape up and a lot will depend on the German elections in the autumn. It is very important that as an industry we see this as an opportunity rather than a threat. It is also not a time for fatalism, we must stay optimistic.

There is a lot of expectation from farmers that we are going to have a bonfire of red tape. That is simply not going to happen, largely due to a lack of parliamentary time. I think we are going to see a shift of a lot of regulations out of Brussels into Whitehall. We have very little time for Parliament to go through it all in detail. I know our members will want us to use the opportunity to get more bespoke regulations for us, but there simply isn’t the time. With regards to pesticide regulation there are issues about operability, who will become the EFSA in the UK and that body may well determine how regulations are implemented.

We need to remember that for the next year and three quarters we are still in the European Union. This year we have 3 key pesticide battles coming up, on neonicotinoids which they want to extend to all crops, on endocrine disruptors which could effect 26 key products and then of course glyphosate at the end of the year. We must stay focussed and be clear that just because we are coming out of the EU we will not be in a position to do what we want to do. If these key actives are banned when we leave in 2019 it will be extremely difficult to get them back. We must stay focussed on these debates in Brussels and that’s where the NFU are.

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