The first 100 days are always the toughest

Donald Inch, Public Affairs Manager ,
24 Jul 2019

So, Boris Johnson will be our next Prime Minister. 

Now comes the hard work. Pick a Cabinet. Fight a by-election. Unite his Conservative MPs. Deliver Brexit by 31 October.

Mr Johnson will officially be appointed Prime Minister today, 24 July, meaning there are exactly 100 days until 31 October, the day the UK is expected to leave the EU. 

I say expected because this is not the original date. It has been delayed twice. But given Mr Johnson’s staunch commitment that the UK will leave the EU by 31 October “do or die”, it looks like this time it really will happen. And chances are, it could well happen without a deal.

Whilst the call to avoid a No Deal Brexit is widely accepted and shouldn’t simply be the default option, we must acknowledge that every Brexit scenario presents various opportunities and challenges for land-based businesses in Scotland. 

The decision to leave the European Union has divided the country, and SLE members are no different. Our membership has diverse views on which scenario provides the best future for our sector. 

One thing they all agree on is that businesses urgently need certainty on the nature of our departure from the EU. We have written to Mr Johnson and will be in touch with key Cabinet members, calling on the UK Government to:

  • Ensure that trade in agri-food products is as free as possible with our principle markets
  • Establish a new system which allows continued access to the seasonal and permanent workforce which is a vital component of both the UK food supply chain and Scotland’s hospitality industry. 
  • Guarantee that domestic production and environmental standards are upheld as part of future international trade deals.

Our farmers and land managers desperately need clarity on where the future lies. Land management and farming aren’t businesses who plan only for the short-term. They need to be able to plan 5, 10, 20 or more years ahead. But to do that, they need at least an inclination of what might lie head. 

We need a new agricultural policy framework which supports farmers as food producers, improves productivity and resilience, and properly rewards the delivery of public goods.

As well as finding a solution to the Brexit process, Mr Johnson will be under pressure to deliver on the pledges he made during his leadership campaign for the Conservative Party. 

Chief among these, for SLE members at least, is Mr Johnson’s pledge to make available £160 million in convergence funding for Scotland’s farmers and “address many of the historic injustices that that system introduces, and make sure that Scotland’s farmers get the support that they are owed”.

Reports suggest that this money won’t come from agricultural funding elsewhere in the UK, so this will need to be found from somewhere else, most likely the Government’s Brexit fighting fund. We all keep a bit of money aside for when the boiler breaks, this is just a slightly more extreme version of that.

There were various pledges made across both leadership campaigns, but SLE will continue lobbying on this issue across both Governments to ensure this one comes to fruition. 

When the Brexit extension was granted back in April, European Council President Donald Tusk said, “please don’t waste this time”. Over the course of the next 100 days, whether we leave, stay, or delay to get a new deal, we need everyone to work together to ensure we have the best possible outcome on the morning of 1 November.