A NO DEAL Brexit could put more than 50% of UK farms out of business – that was the warning delivered to Westminster this week, coinciding with the launch of a new ‘Farmers for a People’s Vote’ group.

A gathering outside Parliament saw farmers, accompanied by a flock of sheep, add their voice to the campaign for a public vote on the final Brexit deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

A press conference followed at The Farmers Club in London, where a new report by the former chief economist of the NFU, Dr Sean Rickard, titled ‘No Deal: The Door to the Decimation of UK Farming’, was released with the warning that 50% of farming businesses risk closure.

“Boris Johnson has made it very clear that his over-riding priority as Prime Minister is to take the UK out of the EU by October 31, if necessary with 'no deal', no matter what the cost to the country’s economy and security,” stressed Dr Rickard.

“Many industries will suffer but the industry that would suffer the most serious economic shock will be agriculture. It is impossible to project the exact number of farmers who will go out of business. What we do know is that over 40% of them will have no net income if the basic payment is removed. If at the same time the Government removes all tariffs and so depresses prices, these two factors combined will render over 50% of farms in this country unviable.”

His report highlighted concerns over future tariffs and how under WTO rules the UK would be in direct competition with the likes of the US, Brazil and Australia.

Dr Rickard continued: “The agricultural sector in the UK faces significant challenges from no deal, as tariffs and non-tariff barriers are erected to our exports at the same time as the UK Government lowers tariffs on imports from third country farmers. British farmers will be caught between increased competition from third countries importing produce to the UK, and increased difficulty and cost when exporting to our biggest market, the EU.

“Free Trade Agreements to reduce those barriers will take many years to negotiate. Coupled with the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme of support payments by 2022, the driving down of farm revenues means that more than half of farms could go out of business,” he concluded.

Conservative MP for Aberconwy, Guto Bebb, is a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign: “Farming is at the very heart of what makes this country great – to put that all at risk for the sake of pursuing a disastrous 'no deal' for which the public haven’t given their consent would be an outrage against democracy. The only way to resolve the Brexit crisis now is to call a People’s Vote and let the public decide for themselves where they want to go from here,” he urged.