The worse-case scenario for the UK sheep sector, a ‘no deal’ on Brexit, is a possibility the sheep sector needs to prepare for, according to the National Sheep Association (NSA).
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: “Given that the vast majority of the 35% of UK lamb exported from the UK goes into the EU, we absolutely do not want a no deal on Brexit. However, it would be irresponsible not to be ready and prepare for this possibility.
“That means stepping up efforts to open up new export markets outside of the EU, doing much more to boost domestic demand for sheepmeat, and protecting ourselves from imports. These are all things that will make sense for the sector even if we do get a deal, so it’s a win-win to do put the work in now.”
Mr Stocker was speaking at the opening ceremony of NSA Sheep 2018, held yesterday at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. He was joined by Lord Inglewood, NSA president, who explained the role of the House of Lords in the ongoing Brexit negotiations in Westminster.
Mr Stocker said: “Negotiations could still go very badly wrong and there is a risk we could crash out, fall back to WTO rules and face huge trade disruption – so we need to be ready and that is why it’s important to prepare for a no deal.
“All the consultations and white papers to date include a lot of welcome words, but the careful choice of words can be interpreted as being encouraging almost from wherever you sit, and it cannot be long now before more detail will have to come through and decisions be made. Words are easy to say. Putting them into action is another matter and that is where we now need to focus our attention.”
He added: “Using Brexit and the taking back control of some our regulatory functions, and a growing change of attitude within Government departments to want to support industry rather than constantly being fearful of compliance with EU regulations, there are real opportunities to make progress.”