Two years ago, renowned environmentalist George Monbiot said that our exit from the EU would be as dignified as a drunk getting chucked out of a pub at closing time.
Well, here we are and it’s not so funny now. There are a few days between me writing this and the so-called “meaningful vote” in Westminster, but I’m prepared to bet that, when you read this, parliament will have voted against Theresa May’s deal and we will be looking at “no deal” or an extension to Article 50.
I no longer have an opinion about it. Farmers are being foolish if they think politicians will be the solution to their own problems. The survival of your farm will depend on your ability to adapt to the market or on damn good luck.
I’ve taken lots of steps in the last two years to protect my own interests, my businesses and the livelihoods of my colleagues.
Planning for the future
I’ve struck long-term deals with UK supermarkets, secured currency as far ahead as I can, brought forward three years’ capital investments, invested in alternative income streams and fixed my interest rates.
We have also started a labour and recruitment company and a residential property company to secure our labour for the next two years, and to accommodate them. This has been very hard work. Now, I am a passenger of fate. I’m nervous, but at least I’m prepared for battle.
I am one of the lucky farmers because I grow cut flowers. We import most of the flowers that we buy in the UK, so there’s room for me to benefit from a weak pound. The market for flowers isn’t currently protected by the EU.
My African competitors, who pay much lower wages and adhere to more relaxed standards, have tariff-free access to our market now and so I am already globally competitive. Can all farmers say this with confidence?
I worry that a large number of the farmers who supported leaving the EU didn’t understand how much it has protected them from cheaper imports.
The thing that farmers are now begging for – the restriction of imported goods which meet lower standards – is a core purpose of the Common Market that they want to leave.
The farmers who complained about “EU regulations” don’t appear to have realised that these are why we haven’t been eating Australian lamb and “hormone-fed” beef from the USA.
Farmers who moaned that audits and unnecessary red tape have made food more expensive are now, perhaps too late, starting to see the value of them. At the end of this godless mess, you can bet that the government will open trade deals for the import of cheap meat and grain from around world.
If you don’t think that they should, then I challenge you to measure your own morals by looking at the clothes you are wearing. Do you know where they were made? Do you know where the cotton, wool or synthetic fibre was produced and to what standard?
Was the nine-year-old who stitched them together happy in their work? If you don’t care about that, why should consumers care about you or your environment? Why is the stuff that you put on your body any different to the stuff you put in your body?
We kept telling consumers: “Don’t complain about farmers with your mouth full.” They are about to tell us: “Don’t complain about imports when you are wearing a Schoffel.”