Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

The National Farmers’ Union Is Spouting Drivel About Food And Brexit

It’s not greatly difficult to work out what the National Farmers’ Union wants out of Brexit. More of our money. But then the NFU’s reason for existence is to argue that farmers should gain more of our cash. The problem they’ve got is that membership of the European Union means they’re showered with that cash. But also that food is more expensive than if we were outside the EU. They want to preserve access to the money, obviously enough, but it’s a bit difficult to do so when we all should know that leaving is going to make food more affordable.

But, you know, still they try:

UK would run out of food a year from now with no-deal Brexit, NFU warns

Nice headline but not quite what they do say:

Farmers’ union says supply would dry up by August 2019 if Britain had to be self-sufficient

It’s true that the UK imports some 40% of its food. And we also export some products, those which grow well here. You know, that comparative advantage thing? But why would we want to be self-sufficient in food? There’s a vast global market out there just panting to provide us with cheap edibles. We should take advantage, post-Brexit, of our ability to import them tariff free, no?

And as to a no deal Brexit impacting our ability to do so we’ve pointed this out before:

If other places impose tariffs upon our exports, then fewer such exports will take place. This will mean more British beef to be eaten by Britons. No one has yet ascertained a method by which such an increase in supply is going to raise the price we must pay for our own beef.

To insist, meanwhile, that we must raise tariffs on the imports we desire is to misunderstand the WTO system. As a source in Geneva explains, Britain is a WTO member in its own right and will still be so even after Brexit happens. This means that we have promised not to charge higher than the allowable ceilings in tariffs upon imports from other WTO members. The Most Favoured Nation clause also states that whatever we do decide to charge ourselves, we must apply the same rate to the same products from all different WTO countries.

But not charging higher than the allowable ceilings does not commit us to charging anything at all. We can apply a 0 per cent rate (yes, I checked) if we so wish.

We gain greater freedom to purchase cheaper food as a result of Brexit. Really, not what the NFU is telling us here. But then they want to preserve their taxpayer bounty. The correct response to which is:

We have an alternative policy framework to suggest. Let’s just not have a policy. No subsidies, no payments, no department, no Minister, nothing, nowt, zippedy dooh dah. The New Zealand option. You’ve had it good for a century or more now there’s yer bike and have a nice ride.

We would not swear that this is true but we have heard that it is so – British farming has long passed Parkinson’s Event Horizon. There are now more bureaucrats “managing” farming than there are farmers farming. Let’s not pay the farmers anything and thus we don’t need the bureaucrats paying it – a double saving. Instead of £2 to £3 billion a year in taxes going to the farmers, plus whatever the amount again to pay it to them, we could just keep that what, £5 billion? And go and buy food from whomever.

Sounds like a plan really and we recommend it to all. Let’s use Brexit to right some of the wrongs of our current system. One of those wrongs being the incessant whining and demands for bribery from the farming sector.

The correct design of the new domestic agriculture policy is that there isn’t one. And nor is there any funding for either it or its absence.

We recommend this policy to the House.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

As always, the union’s argument is: If our cozy racket is eliminated, the commerce it covers will be replaced by vacuum, and no one will innovate (nor even transact) to replace what is lost.

5 years ago

I wonder how the NFU views territories outside the EU such as Jersey, and the Isle of Man – they probably think they ran out yonks ago and all died.

Hallowed Be
Hallowed Be
5 years ago

Difficult to find a British politician who articulates this position. There’s just an awful lot of votes out there for protecting farmers, and getting people to depart from there visceral default position is hard.
Perhaps if Jacinda Ahern came over to Blighty and then was asked what she intends to do to protect NZ farmers from the rigours of international competition, we might get an answer that was given the time of day and had a chance to get traction in the British public psyche. Then again she may just fudge it if its still somewhat controversial in NZ.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x