Officials at Defra have responded robustly to press coverage of a report produced by the People’s Vote which claims that half of UK farms and farm business could become bankrupt as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
The report, produced by campaigners for a second referendum, was written by economist Dr Séan Rickard and argued, ‘The combination of the removal of support payments – only a proportion will be made up by enhanced environmental payments – and an adverse trading environment will render the majority of farm businesses unviable. By the mid-2020s a large proportion of farm businesses – 50% or more is not an unreasonable estimate – recognising that they face an unprofitable future will decide to cease trading.’
However, in a statement Defra disputed the claims, saying, ‘Not only does the Government not recognise any of the figures included within this report, which is entirely speculative, we have been very clear that once we leave the EU on 31st October, the cash total for farm support will be protected until 2022. This will remain the case even if we leave with no-deal.’
A Defra spokesperson added, “We have been very clear that once we leave the EU on 31st October, we will replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a fairer system of farm support and our new trade deals must work for UK farmers, businesses and consumers. The cash total for farm support will be protected until 2022, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. We will also intervene to provide direct support to boost some sectors in the unlikely event this is required.”