A no-deal Brexit would be “absolutely disastrous” for agriculture in the UK – leading to the mass slaughter of lambs and many British agriculture workers going out of business, the head of the National Union of Farmers (NUF) has warned.
Minette Batters warned that the UK is unable to eat the amount of lamb it produces and depends on trade relations with France, which buys 40 per cent of the nation’s sheep meat, to sell on the product.
If British farmers were unable to effectively trade with the continent due to tariffs, she warned it could cause a vast surplus and lead to the mass slaughter of UK sheep.
The UK is currently the second largest supplier of lamb in the world – but the country still receives more than 70,000 tonnes of the meat from New Zealand every year, a trade agreement that would still continue in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“There is of course a tariff schedule out, but if you can’t get your lamb into the European market that puts you into oversupply,” Ms Batters told Sophie Ridge on Sky News. “That means that you will have many farmers going out of business and indeed you would have to look at slaughtering quite a large percentage of the national sheep flock.”
She added the risk to UK jobs would be equally catastrophic to the sector.
“We’ve said consistently that it would be socially and economically disastrous for this sector,” she said. “Agriculture is part of the largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, which is worth more than the car industry and the aerospace industry put together. We employ one in seven people so it is really, really serious for us.”
Highlighting the way a no deal Brexit could affect trade, employment, food standards and animal welfare, she added: “On every level for my sector this is really disastrous and cannot be allowed to happen. We have to leave in an orderly manner.”
It comes as Boris Johnson, who remains the frontrunner to lead the Conservative party, and in turn the country as prime minister, doubles down on his threat to leave the European Union without a deal unless a better Brexit deal is offered by Brussels before 31 October.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “We were pretty much ready on 29 March and we will be ready by 31 October 31. It’s vital that our partners see that.”