A leading Brexit expert says farmers are now firmly caught in the crosshairs of our exit from Europe – and do not appear to recognise the scale of the threat they face.
Peter Wilding, Brexit Director at leading Midlands law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, says large numbers of farmers say they back leaving the EU without a deal even though it could place their own livelihoods in jeopardy.
Mr Wilding says the agriculture sector could pay the heaviest of prices in the event of a so-called hard Brexit and warned farmers a ‘Brexit tsunami’ was about to hit them.
“There is something particularly difficult to explain going on in the farming community at the moment,” said Mr Wilding, a European law expert who is a leading authority on Brexit and was the first man to coin the word.
“Of all the business sectors destined to be adversely affected by Brexit, British agriculture tops the league. In spite of this, the Knight Frank Rural Sentiment Survey 2019 of 200 farm businesses revealed that more than a quarter of farmers are backing the hard Brexit which will directly imperil their futures.
“Yet despite facing such problems, real and potential, more than half of businesses said they were making zero changes to cope with the challenges or opportunities of Brexit.
“But I am afraid that the things that are farmers' main concerns - restrictive planning policy, poor rural broadband, fly-tipping, commodity prices and succession issues - will be as nothing when the Brexit tsunami hits them.”
Mr Wilding said FBC Manby Bowdler’s own research had indicated that farmers were more worried about Brexit than the Rural Sentiment Survey suggested, but had yet to grasp the full implications of what a no deal exit could mean.
“Farmers must be ready for a generational existential threat to not only their businesses but their communities,” he warned.
“They face pressure on all fronts. If we leave the EU without a deal it is certain that incomes will fall, land prices will fall and exports will fall.
“At the same time we know that tariffs, costs and imports will all rise and that the farming sector will be "on the table" in all future trade agreements.
“British farming is firmly in the crosshairs and farmers must protect themselves.”
Mr Wilding, who is based at Church Stretton, Shropshire, is leading FBC Manby Bowdler’s Brexit Advisory Service, which has been inundated with inquiries from farmers and food producers about how they can ‘Brexitproof’ their operations.
Mr Wilding, and FBC Manby Bowdler’s advisory team, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01694 724440.