Farmers call on politicians to get ‘shoulder to the wheel’ on Chequers plan

Farming leaders have urged politicians to get behind Theresa May’s Brexit plan for the sake of the agricultural sector.

Jonnie Hall, director of policy and member services at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland, told MPs that while the Prime Minister’s beleaguered Chequers plan was not perfect, it was workable.

He told Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee a “no deal” scenario for leaving the EU was the “biggest fear” of the farming, food and drink sectors.

Mr Hall said: “We will argue very, very strongly that for the agriculture and food and drink sectors in Scotland, having access to the European market is absolutely vital, but that access has to be unfettered and as friction-free as possible.

“We’re dealing with food products – by definition they’re usually perishable and therefore things like customs delays and non-tariff barriers, and so on, that slow processes down could be highly damaging.

“Being exposed to significant tariffs, particularly in the red meat sector, would also be hugely damaging for our sheep and beef producers, in particular, but also other sectors as well would suffer as a consequence.”

He added: “Our view of this, it may be entirely wishful thinking, but we would love to see all the party politics getting stripped out of all of this and some pragmatism coming to the fore in just saying ‘right, we need the right outcome for British, Scottish agriculture and food and drink sectors, and arguably the rest of the economy as well’.

“That requires a recognition that Chequers isn’t perfect, probably for anybody, but it is something that certainly the agriculture and food and drinks sectors can work with, but it requires a political will from elected folk from all sorts of parliaments and assemblies to actually get behind this.

“There’s always a process of internal party politics, and also cross-party politics are going to have a say in this, but in the interests of Scottish agriculture we will talk to every MP of every political colour until we’re blue in the face, essentially to say ‘just get your shoulder to the wheel and get this over the line’.”