Scottish Tory slams “calamitous” Brexit and issues warning for farmers

Former MEP Struan Stevenson has slammed the UK's Brexit policy. Picture: Contributed
Former MEP Struan Stevenson has slammed the UK's Brexit policy. Picture: Contributed
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A top Scottish Conservative has called for his party to reconsider their “calamitous” Brexit policy and is warning a trade deal with President Donald Trump’s administration could destroy Scottish farmers.

Former MEP Struan Stevenson raised the issue of declining subsidies and collapsing land prices while imports of cheap low-quality hormone-treated beef and chlorine-washed chicken risked damaging domestic production.

Writing in The Herald, Mr Stevenson echoed concerns from economists and agriculture experts.

He said: “When a hard Brexit means hurtling over the cliff’s edge and a soft Brexit means paying for EU membership but having no say, it is time to call a halt.

“Let us hope that Scotland’s farmers will add their voices to the growing nationwide clamour for a re-think on the calamitous course that the UK now seems to be pursuing.”

READ MORE: Farmers ‘fed up’ with Scottish Government over CAP payments

Theresa May’s cabinet are reportedly looking for a way to reverse last year’s Brexit vote as the full cost of seperation from the EU becomes clearer.

Mr Stevenson, however, is one of few Conservatives to make an outright call for the UK to remain in the European Union and the single market.

READ MORE: NFU Scotland says low food prices put producers at risk

The MEP for 15 years was voicing concerns over the fate of Scottish farming that have heightened ever since his party colleagues talked up the prospect of post-Brexit trade deals with other countries English speaking nations.

Donald Trump has said he expects a trade deal with the UK to be completed “very, very quickly” and that he will be coming to London.

The US president hailed the “very special relationship” he had developed with Theresa May as the pair met for talks on the margins of the G20.

Previously industry group Quality Meat Scotland warned that such a deal would mean a “downward spiral” for Scottish farmers who have specialised in high-quality healthy grass-fed beef which cannot compete on price with US meat.

Such competition, Mr Stevenson said, would come just as farmers faced potential barriers to their trade with traditional export markets in the EU.

The chief executive of pro-union group Scottish Business in UK, wrote: “The Brexiteers also claim that the EU’s protectionist policies discriminate against cheap food imports and force up food prices for British consumers.

“In other words they want cheaper food following Brexit. That means throwing open UK markets to cheap food from Africa, Australia, North America, Brazil, and Argentina, causing chaos for UK farm gate prices, a further fall in land values and widespread bankruptcies.

“UK food self-sufficiency would plummet.”

He added: “Only the super-efficient, top 10 per cent of farm businesses could survive without them. Most farmers have thin margins, if they have any margins at all.

“The European Commission estimates that land prices would fall by 30 per cent if farm subsidies were totally abolished in the UK and they would fall sharply if subsidies were reduced. For farmers who have taken out bank loans against the value of their land, a loss of value could be fatal.”

Mrs May has insisted she is confident the UK would secure a good deal with the EU and “because it’s not just about what’s in the interests of the United Kingdom, it’s about what’s in the interests of the remaining 27 members states in the European Union and I think it is in the interests of both sides to have that good trade agreement”.

She added: “But I’m also optimistic about the opportunities that we will see in the rest of the world.

“Some of the countries I have been talking to here who have shown great interest in working with us on trade arrangements in the future, the United States, Japan, China, India, these are all huge world economies.

“This is an important development for the United Kingdom and I look forward to developing those trade deals as well.”