Seize this opportunity to shape the future, says CAAV

Disentangling 43 years of engagement with the EU will be a monumental project, but it’s up to British businesses and advisers to seize the opportunity to shape the future.

That’s the view of Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, who was speaking at the CAAV AGM this morning (24 June). “This is probably one of the most historic occasions of at least a generation,” he said. “It changes the climate, not just the weather of where we’re going.”

EU regulations permeated every tributary of UK law, so it would take years to translate that into an independent British framework, he added. “I strongly suspect that we’ll simply have an enabling statute that says EU legislation remains in force, purely for continuity – the task is too formidable.”

Trade agreements were clearly going to be important, and it was to early to tell which model the UK would adopt, warned Mr Moody. “Our share of trade with the EU is slowly declining – it’s at 45% now and on a 15-year forecast it’s at 30%. But farmers are distinctively exporters to the EU and agricultural products face high import tariffs. That is an immediate issue to face up to.”

The sharp drop in the value of the pound would help UK exporters and buoy agricultural commodity prices in the short-term, he added. “But we are heavily dependent on migrant workers: It’s very easy to make the case for highly skilled workers but we need people on the farms, and they would fail a visa test, so we need to look very closely at that.”

Farmers relying on the Basic Payment were likely to continue to receive some support from the British government, although implementing an agricultural policy across devolved regions could be tricky, and the focus on taxpayers’ value for money was likely to intensify, said Mr Moody. “We are going to need something to bridge the gap in 2018, as applications will be received in May but the EU won’t be there to release the money later in the year,” he warned.

Other major concerns were the future for a united UK, with a land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic that couldn’t be policed. “And the EU itself is hit by all this: It’s losing a major voice – how much else unravels?”

However, now was the time – at every echelon, from individual businesses to a national level – to seize the opportunity to shape the world, added Mr Moody. “There is an awful lot of work ahead. But it’s up to us to shape the future. As a professional body to rural land owners and businesses it’s for the CAAV to find practical ways in which the advantage is to be seized.”