Farmers flock together taking sheep to Whitehall in protest at a no-deal Brexit

Boris Johnson shears a sheep during the Conservative leadership campaign - today farmers took sheep to Whitehall to protest against Brexit.
Boris Johnson shears a sheep during the Conservative leadership campaign - today farmers took sheep to Whitehall to protest against Brexit.
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A flock of sheep was herded along Whitehall today by campaigners who say a no-deal Brexit could force half of UK farms out of business.

Six sheep were led past government buildings by the People's Vote campaign group during the launch of its Farmers For A People's Vote offshoot.

The group also launched a report by Dr Sean Rickard, former chief economist of the National Farmers' Union, who said the UK's farming and food industries would be "most vulnerable" to the impacts of no deal.

The report claims the EU and countries with which it has free trade agreements would apply tariffs on food imports from the UK after no deal, rendering British farms "uncompetitive".

A combination of the removal of support payments and an "adverse trading environment" will render farming "unviable" and around half of businesses could cease trading by the mid-2020s, the report warns.

The SNP said the report "No Deal: The Door To The Decimation Of UK Farming" underlined the need for Boris Johnson to rule out a no-deal Brexit to protect Scottish sheep farmers, with agriculture the third largest employer in rural Scotland.

The party's rural affairs spokesperson Deidre Brock MP said: “This is the latest stark warning that a no-deal Brexit will be catastrophic for Scotland's farming sector.

“Boris Johnson is in total denial about the devastating impact his extreme Brexit plans would have on farmers and producers across Scotland and the UK - leaving many struggling to survive.

“It is time Boris Johnson took his head out of the sand and heeded the latest in a series of warnings about how devastating his ‘do or die’ Brexit will be for farmers in Scotland and the UK."

Ms Brock also accused the UK government of failing to pay £160 million in convergence payments to Scottish farmers.

She said: “It is imperative that the UK government stops ducking its responsibilities, stumps up the missing £160 million it owes Scotland’s farmers, and scraps its hostile environment policies that have caused so much damage to Scotland’s food and drink industry."

Author of the report Dr Rickard, said farmers would face "very high tariffs" on exports to the EU and be placed into a "vicious pincers movement". "We are in a state of utter trading madness if we crash out of Europe," he said.

The sheep spectacle, which lasted around half an hour, ended outside The Farmers' Club at 3 Whitehall Court. Dr Rickard said Brexit supporters do not see farming as a "priority", adding: "I cannot see much opportunity of this sector growing in the aftermath of a no-deal Brexit.

"Many industries will suffer but the industry that would suffer the most serious economic shock will be agriculture. It is impossible to project the exact number of farmers who will go out of business. What we do know is that over 40 per cent of them will have no net income if the basic payment is removed."

The UK government has announced a temporary tariff regime if the there is no deal reached with the EU on Brexit, which it says, aims to maintain open trade on the majority of UK imports, to support consumers and business supply chains, but retain "necessary tariff protection" for particular sectors of the UK economy.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Once we leave the EU on October 31, we will replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a fairer system of support. We’ll ensure that farmers in Scotland and across the UK get a better deal and that our new trade agreements work in the best interests of businesses, consumers and farmers.

“As we have said before, the cash total for farm support will be protected until 2022, no matter what. We will also intervene to provide direct support to boost some sectors in the unlikely event this is required.

“We will shortly be publishing the recommendations from an independent review, led by Lord Bew, looking at how future funding can be fairly allocated outside the EU. This will take into account the unique farming environments in certain parts of the UK.”