Price of Brexit is heavier by the day for farm industry - Andrew Arbuckle

Less than two years ago, the UK countryside was crawling with politicians as they touted for votes in the most recent general election.

Brexit problems continue to pop up
Brexit problems continue to pop up

The decision to leave Europe had been taken but much of the all important detail was being camouflaged under little statements such as “leaving Europe will be a piece of cake” and “Get Brexit Done.”

Many voters were scunnered with the argument on when and how the split with Europe would take place and held their hands over their ears whenever the issue arose.

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Thus, the politicians achieved their primary objectives - that of being elected and leaving Europe. But there are now a number of problems that are crying out to be resolved in this country’s new isolated status and there is no sign of these aforementioned politicians to carry out this remedial work.

It seems the negotiators were so busy trying to cobble some deal together they never got round to looking at the detail and they definitely did not look at “what if” scenarios that were bound to happen in breaking up a relationship that had operated for more than 40 years.

Thus, we now have unresolved post Brexit problems which are eating into the economy as companies try to adapt to a new life outside the EU. The frustrating thing is, in business terms, most of the problems are simple stuff.

It is important not to overstate the current situation, but many businesses are financially worse off and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future as the shortages of workers continues.

Hardly a day goes by without further evidence accumulating on the disruptive effect that Brexit is having to businesses up and down the country. There is no doubt, Covid has compounded the effect of the split but the main culprit in the disruption has been the loss of the Eastern European workforce who retreated back home after being made unwelcome in this country.

To help alleviate the various problems arising from a lack of sufficient workers, there was a concerted effort last week by a number of leading organisations, including NFU Scotland, asking for a temporary relaxation so that extra workers could be brought in from Europe. This requested leeway would allow EU workers to temporarily come into this country to help harvest crops, to work in abattoirs and to drive lorries.

There was a pretty impressive collection of organisations behind the request and none of the specifics they asked for were earth shattering or groundbreaking. All they would have done was to remove some of the bumps dislocating the supply chain whether this is in the fields, the factories or the lorry cabs.

So far, there has been no response from the politicians and we now have situations where fruit and veg crops are rotting in the fields through a lack of pickers, pigs are stuck on farms becoming fatter by the day through a scarcity of processing workers and shops have empty shelves on account of there being a shortage of lorry drivers.

The politicians will likely continue to hide in their bunkers in Westminster until such time as big businesses such as McDonalds or Coca Cola phone Boris and complain. That seems to be the way this UK government works.

Meanwhile, other unresolved pos-Brexit problems continue to pop up. This week sees the return of the famous Kelso Tup sales after a year out on account of Covid restrictions.

Numbers of tups entered are well back, mainly because the sheep trade across the Irish Sea has been brought to a halt due to the botched Brexit negotiations that failed to decide where the EU/non EU borders should be. Months after the Brexit deadline passed, the negotiators are still arguing about it.

Again, it is obvious the politicians have failed to negotiate a deal that would not affect the Brexit status but would have allowed the sheep trade to continue.

These and all the other complications arising from Brexit should have been sorted out or at least have had a procedure for sorting them out as part of the departure deal. That would have been more productive than shouting three word slogans.

Other industries can cope with some dislocation to their supply chains but producing food is a long term business and the tap cannot just be switched off and on. I hope the politicians realise that.

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