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MEP: Brexit could destroy Shropshire farming

By Lucy Todman | Bishop's Castle | Farming | Published:

The new MEP for the West Midlands has warned that Brexit could destroy Shropshire farming.

Phil Bennion

Phil Bennion was guest speaker at a lunch held by the Bishop's Castle Lib Dems at the Three Tuns when he said that any kind of hard Brexit would inevitably mean 40 per cent export tariffs which would devastate most sectors of Shropshire farming and damage the wider economy.

He said: "Leaving the single market would have profound consequences. Most of our economy has been built around the single market for 30 years, from manufacturing to farming.

"Losing our biggest market will cause a glut of lamb, so the price will collapse, meaning sheep farmers will soon go bankrupt. Dairy will also be severely affected.

"Farmers will not be able to sell very much if they have to pay a 40 per cent export tariff. If we Brexit without a replacement for the Single Farm Payment, livelihoods will be gone. And if you read Michael Gove's Agriculture Bill, as I have, you will see that no replacement is intended.

"Gove wants to abandon all direct support except environmental payments but under WTO rules so beloved of Brexiters, such payments cannot exceed direct costs - you can't use them to support income. We will end up losing pretty well all our farmers because it is simply not viable to compete at world prices. We can hold our own in certain niche markets but we will no longer be in the business of food production for the mass market.

"I hope we can get a longer extension after October and then a referendum on whatever deal the Brexit side can come up with, which is increasingly likely to be no deal at all, versus remain.

"Politics has been transformed by this crisis and anything could happen, you only need to look at opinion polls. The Lib Dems may join a very short term Government of National Unity to resolve this crisis and organise a referendum. We need to keep all options open."

He said he thought the chances of stopping Brexit from happening were 50/50.

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"Hard Brexit would be thin gruel for Britain. The rest of the world is full of powerful countries like China, Russia even India, flexing their muscles and bullying smaller countries. Being in the EU gives us vital critical mass.

"Young people are crucial. It is their future we could be throwing away. We have to bring climate action into the centre of the debate."

Former councillor Peter Phillips who organised the lunch said: "It was a well attended event and Phil spoke and took questions in a lively discussion. I can't remember when the last MEP from any other party visited this part of Shropshire."

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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