UK farmers face uncertainty as parliament prepares to vote on Brexit deal

UK farmers face uncertainty as parliament prepares to vote on Brexit deal
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With just 11 weeks until Brexit, UK farmers face a dramatically changing landscape.

Michael Oakes, owner of Beacon Farm, on the outskirts of Birmingham, is also the chairman of the National Farmers Union in this area. He runs a herd of 300 dairy cows.

“These are the next generation of dairy cows on this farm, we’ve got 50 or 60 calves – Brexit will mean just how productive and profitable their future may or may not be,” Oakes said.

For dairy farms like Michael’s, the margins are as fine as they get.

“Worst case scenario is we have no deal and we crash out of Europe,” Oakes added. “Ultimately, we could then end up having to pay substantial tariffs of up to 40% to be able to export agricultural products out of the UK. There’ll be animals born the spring; we don’t know whether there’ll be a market for their products,”

Michael says he knows people who had voted both ways, who had changed their minds - and others who staunchly have the same decision.

“Our government for years had blamed everything that was wrong in agriculture on the Common Agricultural Policy. And then, all of a sudden farmers had a choice – to, as they perceived, create our own policy. Which I can say see why they thought that was great.”

No-deal Brexit is almost certainly not what farmers who voted to leave were expecting. Julian Douthwaite is an organic beef and sheep farmer - his farm has been in the family since 1880. His barn is full of heavily pregnant cows. Now, Julian does not know where his beef will be sold.

“We were all working together to produce food for the consumers of Europe as whole, and now we will be outside that market looking in, hoping to continue to trade with them but not knowing if we’ll be able to,” Douthwaite said.

Julian and Michael are watching closely, but regardless of what happens in Westminster, their livestock will give birth in the Spring.

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