CONSERVATIVE Party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt has pledged to allocate £6 billion as extra support for farmers and fisherman in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

With the race to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister drawing to a close later this month, Mr Hunt recently met with sheep farmers in Shropshire and declared during a live TV debate that he was aware that a no-deal Brexit could destroy sheep businesses, by potentially imposing 40% tariffs on their produce.

Both Mr Hunt and leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson have refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit, but Mr Hunt has been the first to put his name to a 'no-deal' relief programme with a set budget: "If we could do it for the bankers in the financial crisis, we can do it for our fisherman, farmers and small businesses now," said Mr Hunt. "I will mitigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit on you and step in to help smooth those short-term difficulties."

It is suggested that the money would be made available from Chancellor Philip Hammond’s so called ‘no-deal war chest’ – funds thought to total up to £26bn which have been earmarked for coping with a no-deal departure from the EU.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick called for clarity on how this relief money would be delivered: “While it seeks to address the severe damage that a shift to tariffs under the World Trade Organisation default would have on our important export trade with Europe and the rest of the world, any measures must also address the inequalities associated with tariffs and standards applied to any imported produce.

“Our key demands on Brexit remains unchanged," said Mr McCornick. "We must avoid a ‘no deal’ and secure as close a trading arrangement with the EU as possible," he continued. “We must gain greater control over regulations; maintain access to non-UK seasonal and permanent workers and see our leading production standards recognised in any trade deal."

Mr Hunt's policy pledge was welcomed by the National Sheep Association, but it also asked for greater detail regarding the process of the support: "A no-deal scenario, resulting in falling back to WTO rules, would mean exporting sheepmeat into the EU, our largest sheepmeat exporting partner, with a 40-50% tariff, making this an unaffordable market for UK farmers," said NSA. "Providing support with tariffs would be a fantastic way to help farmers through this rocky time, and we welcome it immensely.”

“In order to deliver this support the Government must come up with a creative process that doesn’t leave the country open to WTO challenge. This is something NSA has been putting a lot of thought and work into and we hope is something the next Prime Minister will be prepared to engage his Government with.”

Both PM leadership candidates are in Scotland this week and NFUS has extended invitations to meet with both of their campaign teams.

Elsewhere in the leadership race, Mr Johnson has stirred the political waters by suggesting that the next PM should take on the role of ‘minister of the union’ – declaring that if he is elected for the job he will do all he can to hold the UK together in the face of another Scottish independence referendum.

Mr Johnson has proposed that there should be a unit at Number 10 to 'sense-test and stress-test' every future policy for the potential impact it would have on the union: "We should actively campaign for a public understanding of the benefits of the union, economic and strategic, for the people and its component nations," he stated.

"There are still passionate voices – especially in Scotland – that are campaigning night and day to break our union up, to diminish our country. We cannot just leave the field to them, and refuse to engage in the argument," he said.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that a prospective no-deal Brexit with Mr Johnson at the helm would heighten the case for independence: "I think Boris Johnson becoming PM would be a disaster for the UK and bad for Scotland and I don’t think people in Scotland want that," she said. “It further demonstrates that Scotland and the rest of the UK are perhaps on different political trajectories and I believe for Scotland we have to have the ability to choose our own future and not have that future imposed on us by Boris Johnson or anyone else."