Opinion: Unimpressed with the new government

Oh cripes! Our new prime minister has pledged that we will leave the European Union, deal or no deal, on 31 October.

At that date, we expect to still have in hand around half our lambs and most of our store cattle. We will be very exposed to the effects of a no-deal Brexit.

See also: David Alvis’s take on the new Defra line-up

Tariffs of more than 40% will be imposed overnight on lamb exports to the EU and, while we can’t know the exact impact on farmgate prices, we do know it would be bad. 

The Times recently quoted estimates of a 30% decrease in prices. Thanks Boris. Thanks Brexit. 

While in Wales recently, our smirking supremo said: “If there are markets that are going to be tricky, we will help them (farmers) find new markets”, adding that “we have interventions that are aimed to support them and their incomes”. But pressed for specifics, he reverted to generalities.

What new markets could plausibly make up for the loss of the EU at the end of October? One hapless minister suggested Japan, but the BBC’s Reality Check found this market is only expected to generate sales worth 2.67% of current annual exports to the EU. 

In terms of support, there have been suggestions of some sort of intervention scheme, costing around £500m, in which beef and lamb is bought by government at a pre-determined price.

But it has already been pointed out that there isn’t enough cold storage capacity in the UK to take the meat. 

Any scheme will have to move seamlessly from the back of an envelope to full implementation throughout the UK by 1 November.

Given recent experience of Defra schemes, how could anyone have the slightest confidence that this will all be fine?

I confess I originally found the composition of this new government perplexing. During the Conservative leadership campaign, the message to those who doubted the executive abilities of our new PM was to look to his term as London mayor.

He had proved to be a great cheerleader for London and the whole thing didn’t fall apart because he had assembled competent deputies who handled all the boring stuff, actually managing things. 

So, while I have never doubted Boris Johnson’s ability with the pom-poms, I was surprised by the underwhelming nature of his new team.

The new cabinet seem to me the least impressive and accomplished bunch I can recall in any government in my lifetime. 

I’ve now come to the conclusion that it’s all part of a cunning plan to convince the EU, parliament and the public that they are serious about no deal on Halloween. Only a crew this ideologically committed – and in denial of the consequences – might be bonkers enough to actually pull it off.

So are the chances of no deal “a million to one against” as stated by Mr Johnson during his leadership campaign? 

I’d rate it marginally more likely that we will agree a deal, but much more probable that we end up with a general election in the autumn.

Mr Johnson could then say he has been thwarted by an intransigent EU and a remainer parliament and seek a majority to get Brexit done and keep Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn out. Anything could happen after that.

Folks, they’re messing with our heads. I just wish they weren’t messing with our livelihoods as well.

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