The failure of Westminster politicians to agree on an EU withdrawal plan prompted most rural leaders to reiterate their fears of a no-deal scenario and repeat demands for frictionless trade with Europe, equivalence in the standard of imports and access to seasonal and permanent workers.
However, landowners organisation, Scottish Lands and Estates (SLE) broke ranks over the impact of a no-deal outcome.
SLE executive director, Sarah-Jane Laing said: “While the call to avoid a no-deal Brexit is widely accepted, we must acknowledge that every Brexit scenario presents pros and cons for land-based businesses in Scotland, and our membership has diverse views on which scenario provides the best future.
“The rural community has shown itself to be resilient, flexible and innovative for generations and we have every confidence that will continue in the face of uncertainty or challenges. There was already a strong argument for significant change in our sector long before Brexit, and that remains the case.”
Meanwhile NFU Scotland remained unequivocal in its view that a no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs, and the National Sheep Association highlighted the risk of losing export markets for more than 35% of British lamb, the majority of which (96%) is sold to the EU.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “No-deal would result in the immediate loss of EU access, with no alternative options, and would cause immense disruption to our markets for months – if not longer. When re-established, adding a tariff to the cost of production would be very worrying for UK producers who already produce at a high cost to meet the UK’s world leading welfare standards.
“There is potential for tariffs to be as high as 50% of the value and, while we may see a fall in sterling, it would not be enough to offset higher export costs. If this situation comes about we could see a sharp decline in the national flock, with few alternatives for many grassland farmers.”
NFUS policy affairs manager Claire Slipper called on MPs to recognise how much is at stake.
She said: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters deserve a far clearer picture of what their future will look like and how they can transition to change in a way that ensures they remain profitable, prosperous and productive.”
Brexit latest, Pages 12-15