What Boris Johnson’s premiership might or might not mean for farming – Tim Breitmeyer

What does Boris Johnson's policy approach mean for farmers?
What does Boris Johnson's policy approach mean for farmers?
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THE difference between Theresa May’s approach to politics and that of the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is quite remarkable.

Mrs May was quiet, methodical and humble in her style. Mr Johnson is bombastic, loud, but above all 
optimistic.

Tim Breitmeyer is president of the CLA.

Tim Breitmeyer is president of the CLA.

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Time will tell which yields the greater outcome, but it is at least refreshing to see a ‘‘can do’’ attitude coming from Downing Street, although some of it appears wildly hopeful.

But there is so much to do in so little time.

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Boris Johnson undertook a farm visit during his first week as PM.

Boris Johnson undertook a farm visit during his first week as PM.

With regard to ‘‘no deal’’ planning, some reports suggest we have only 10 per cent of the customs officers necessary to staff our Europe-facing seaports, and two-thirds of businesses that trade with Europe have still not registered with HMRC for customs purposes.

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The situation looks similar on the other side. The UK is a massive market for the Republic of Ireland, a country which also needs to use the UK as a land bridge for its exports to the EU.

Dublin’s own ‘‘no deal’’ plans look patchy at best, and perceived wisdom in Brussels is that the continent’s preparations are less advanced than they admit.

What will Brexit mean for the rural economy?

What will Brexit mean for the rural economy?

This might give some credibility to the Prime Minister’s brinkmanship strategy – but my word the stakes are high.

The deep-seated intransigence of a European Commission focused on saving its political project should not be underestimated.

As continually highlighted, business groups have been warning on ‘‘no deal’’ for more than three years, yet political and public sentiment remains largely unchanged.

That is why it is vital for us to take a pragmatic view.

Together with the Tenant Farmers Association, we wrote to the Prime Minister to explain what measures should be put in place to protect the rural economy should ‘‘no deal’’ come to pass. These measures included a transition support package to primary producers who will see the value of their output undermined by EU tariffs, ensuring continued access to EU markets through Tariff Rate Quotas and maintaining access to seasonal labour.

Perhaps we can try to view the world through Mr Johnson’s eyes.

It is indeed true the potential to explore new markets is exciting.

There are 7.5 billion consumers out there, and the last 10 years or so has seen the most extraordinary reimagining of British food and drink.

We sell cheese to the French and chocolate to the Belgians, but we also sell tea and wine to China, not to mention pork, beef, lamb and a broad variety of other produce to growing markets in Asia, Africa and South America.

Those who fear that, post-Brexit, our high standards may be negotiated away have justifiable concerns.

But that is only half the story. Our standards, undoubtedly some of the highest in the world, are the very reason why customers in far-off lands should want to buy our produce.

It is by far our biggest selling point, and we should sing it from the hilltops.

The Prime Minister promised to ‘‘turbo charge’’ the promotion of UK food exports post-Brexit.

They are fine words, but the campaign is over and we must now deal with the reality.

The risks rural businesses face will only be mitigated, and the opportunities we see will only be exploited, if Mr Johnson makes good on his promises.

Tim Breitmeyer is president of the CLA, the membership organisation for owners of land, property and business in rural England and Wales.