THE ‘Circus of Horrors’ that is Brexit, has been delayed till Halloween, following a six-month extension granted by the EU until October 31.

Trick or treat? You decide, but one thing’s for sure – the pantomime must go on. Despite the Halloween puns adding a much-needed injection of humour to the on-going Brexit saga, the agricultural industry has warned that the extension has only delayed uncertainty further.

There is, however, some good news for the sector, which can put aside fears of a no-deal outcome – if only temporarily – and hope that by the time the spring and summer livestock sales are behind us, Westminster will have a solution on the table.

The National Sheep Association chairman Bryan Griffiths commented: “We welcome that sheep farmers won’t be thrown into a no-deal scenario this week. It’s vital we have the EU markets available to sell our produce and this extended unfettered access, in which we won’t have to face tariffs this season, is greatly appreciated by the sheep industry.

“What we can’t afford is to find ourselves six months down the line in the same position, risking a no deal again,” he continued. “We’re relying on our politicians now to come up with a viable solution which moves this process forward – and something that offers farmers the security they need. NSA is still very clear that a no deal is not acceptable to the sheep industry. But we hope this time will be used to develop a deal that’s beneficial and would allow the free trade so essential to our industry,” he urged.

Sheep industry stakeholders met with Scottish Government today (April 11) to discuss mitigation measures should the UK still leave the EU at any point in the future without a deal that has free and frictionless trade on the table.

In the event of the UK leaving without a deal, the European Union would apply a tariff of 48% on UK sheep meat. This tariff would mean that it could cost more than €150 million per annum if exports were to be maintained.

Speaking following the meeting NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “We have known for some time that the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the sheep sector would be substantial given the reliance on exports. Scotland is home to one fifth of the entire sheep flock of the UK so our rural economy will be substantially affected by such a scenario.

“Although a new deadline for Brexit has been agreed, the reality is that if we leave the European Union at any point in the future without a deal the impacts would be felt by every farming and crofting businesses from Shetland to Stranraer.

“At our meeting today with other industry representatives and the Scottish Government there was agreement that emergency measures would be needed to support the sector in the event of a no-deal. However, we still need to work on the details on how best to deliver the necessary support to protect farm incomes in order to secure the jobs and opportunities which the sector provides in our rural communities," he continued.

“It is important to reiterate that there is concern from all sectors of Scottish agriculture about the potential cost to business from a cliff-edge Brexit and the impact that the uncertainty and stress is having on all those within our industry. I urge the UK Government and Scottish Government to facilitate emergency discussions across all sectors to ensure that we are prepared for the worst possible outcome.

NFU Scotland's political affairs manager, Clare Slipper, suggested in her recent blog that entering into a customs union with the EU after Brexit is growing increasingly more likely.

“Cross-party talks between the two major UK parties have not yet borne fruit, however the buzz around the talks suggests that the compromise could be in entering a customs union with the EU after Brexit. An EU-UK customs union would remove the threat of any new tariffs and customs checks on goods being traded. However, any new customs agreement with the EU would need to be totally comprehensive and include regulatory alignment with EU standards,” she urged.