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Friday, 4 August 2017

Lambing Time in Cloud Cuckoo Land

All the major organisations that represent farmers in the United Kingdom have come together to express their acute concern that the government has not given any of them a hint as to what sort of economic structure there will be surrounding the farmers after Brexit. There is a broad and vague promise that the existing level of EU payments to farmers will be paid from 1 April 2019 until the end of the present EU budgeting period in 2022: and, after that, nothing

This is almost certainly because nobody in government has the faintest idea what sort of regime they can fund, or organise, or administer. Mrs May is just obsessed with the idea that we MUST be in full control of immigration to the UK from the date of Brexit, and [as far as she seems to be concerned] all else is swept aside from serious thought or planning. Self-styled 'Brexiteers' in her government are running around, with one breath promising us free-trade agreements with the half of the world economy that has any serious economic clout; and with the next breath saying that it is too early to say if we will be expected to watch British farms go bust as consumers [with ever-more-quickly declining incomes] are steered towards buying hormone-fattened beef and chlorinated chicken from the USA.

The government has become a conspiracy of silence against any valid information being presented to the nation: and behind that lies abysmal ignorance of the implications of any action upon which the cabinet decides.

So let us take an absolutely basic example. Most members of the government, and even a sizable proportion of the civil service [and, just possibly, some Econocrats] know that due to the ecology of the sheep-farming regions of the UK it is only feasible for our sheep to produce their offspring in the spring. Some parts of the country have earlier and milder spring weather than other parts, thus they can arrange for the lambs to arrive early in the calendar year; while the areas with a more robust climate arrange for the lambs to arrive at the end of the winter. Thus, later in the year, lambs are ready for slaughter over a period of several months. The amount of lamb that is produced in Britain in those months is more than British restaurants and households are able to use: so prime British lamb, in season, goes to Europe and other destinations. Over 40% of the annual production of lamb from the UK goes to the other EU countries, currently without tariffs or other hindrances.

In the parts of the year when there are few lambs ready for slaughter from UK farms, the New Zealand, Australian and other southern-hemisphere farms can supply the EU [including Britain] with lamb: so the UK exports 40%+ of the lamb that is raised here, and imports about the same proportion of the lamb that is consumed over the whole year. This is an entirely sustainable and sensible process; and common sense indicates that we should stick with it. This would work, if Britain has the basic good sense to think straight and act accordingly.

Sadly, it appears that Mrs May has placed fantasists in key positions: so as she dreams of making a niche in history by closing our borders to immigrants to rectify her 'failure' to reduce net immigration below 100,000 when she was Home Secretary; reckless of the long-term economic damage that a 'hard Brexit' would cause, other ministers have been freed to pursue their own fantasies.

I would like to think that this characterisation  of the current situation is an alarmist fantasy of my own: but in the absence of any evidence of rational policy-making, one is licensed to expect the worst.  

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