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Ed's Brexit round-up

15th Dec 2017 / By Ed Barker

The past fortnight has been something of a catalyst for Brexit talks and negotiations, as more has arguably been achieved in this time than in the previous 8 months.

EdBarkerNPAA few weeks ago I explained in detail the problems that the Irish border would pose to Brexit negotiations. Well it seems that I was clairvoyant because this managed to blow up in the Government’s hands some days later. After having struck a deal on Ireland between the UK and EU, it appeared that the DUP were prepared to scupper it – as it would appear to create different rules between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The compromise was, and is a bit of a fudge. Ireland and Northern Ireland would be in ‘full alignment’ on rules to prevent a hard border from having to be in place. Meanwhile ‘no ‘new barriers’ would emerge across the Irish Sea, the UK announced. This is all very well for a transition after 2019 but it is hard to see what it means in the long term, and expect another collision here. One European diplomat told me ‘The Irish border is where Brexit ideology crashes into reality’.

This week members will have seen that backbench Conservatives have been rebelling – only a slightly different set of rebels. Led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve MP, his amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill means that Parliament will have to take the final Brexit deal back to Parliament to be agreed upon. Vague assurances were given prior to this by Government Ministers, however the amendment now puts this in black and white, without ambiguity. Its effects around Europe have actually been quite positive – as other countries realise that the UK Government is being held in check by its own Parliament, and not the ambitions of individuals or groups.

Members will have seen that we at the NPA has recently sent a set of excellent Ladies in Pigs cookbooks to a host of Ministers and MPs – as a goodwill gesture at Christmas time! If any members have made contact with their local MP or are seeking to, then we are always on hand to help provide info or arrange a visit. It is so important for us that MPs understand the reality of modern pig production and by visiting their constituents and businesses first hand, it is the best way of doing this. It is important to remember that for every animal welfare/rights campaign, MP offices are bombarded by emails and letters. One MP told me they had received over 300 pieces of correspondence over the ‘animal sentience’ issue!

2018 is going to be a massive year for the sector, with a new Domestic Agricultural Policy and possible price falls – and using our elected representatives to get our messages out will be a key way of setting a platform for the next 10-20 years.

And finally – Christmas Eve marks 6 months of me at the NPA! Safe to say it has flown by, but the work is as challenging as it is rewarding. It is made much easier by having such excellent colleagues at the NPA too. Hoping you all have an excellent Christmas and New Year. It will be fun to see what unpopular news the Government tries to bury over the festive period!