Numerous checks on livestock already occur in Northern Ireland – but no additional border checks need be required post-Brexit

Imagine that I am a sheep farmer specialising in breeding, selling and exporting lambs in Armagh, Northern Ireland. I also buy lambs from local farms and markets, consolidating them into batches with my own lambs and arranging transport for the export to external markets. I export approximately 400 lambs every 2 days (an average of 400 lambs per vehicle).

In order for me to buy the lambs from local farms, I require proof of their identity, ownership and health status. Although they do not need to be RFID-tagged at birth, lambs will be tagged and registered on the government database prior to being sold, or moved to a new holding or prior to slaughter.

To ensure the identity of lambs I purchase are valid and they are approved for transport, each lamb is tagged and recorded in a government database. The owning farmer records the tag numbers and year of birth in the government holding register within 7 days of tagging or, in the case of animals first tagged at the time of movement, the owning farmer must notify the government system within 7 days of any movement from their home field. A medical check is required from the vet if the new owner is using the animal for breeding; if so, this is done before the lamb leaves.

The lambs are kept in batches whilst the sale and transport to me is confirmed. Once the purchased lambs are transported to my farm, I scan the tags and record the transfer of ownership to myself on the government database. Each lamb undergoes an ID check (their tag number and information listed against it), has its history of disease checked and my ownership is confirmed on the government database. The lambs are then batched and kept together in holding pens.

I can now prepare to export and sell all my lambs to the buyer. I notify the government system of my intention to move the lambs, listing their IDs; the government system will either approve or reject this movement for export. If approved, I arrange for a vet to perform a physical check on every lamb at my farm. If even one lamb has risk or history of disease, then my whole flock cannot move. If the vet provides the all-clear, the batch is released and the vet provides a licence to export. I can now update the government database with confirmation of the movement. (Note: my farm can also be physically audited by government official at any time).

Transport for the lambs is now arranged with a licensed transporter. Only licensed and approved transport firms can be used as listed on the government database. We confirm the time of collection, together with the route and duration of their journey (additional stops may be required if over 8 hours), and I update all this information on government system.

When the transporter arrives at my farm to collect the lambs, I provide a list of IDs and the corresponding vet certificate proving the flock is healthy. Upon arrival at the border, or sea port, the transporter stops at a specified inspection point (BIP) where another vet check is performed on the lambs, and all documents and IDs are verified. Once cleared, the transporter is able to continue to cross the border or embark on the ferry.

When the UK exits the EU Customs Union, if an all-island sanitary and phyto-sanitary zone is maintained for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, today’s policies and process – as described above – will be maintained and continue to protect the integrity of the livestock supply chain. Farmers will of course, in addition to today’s processes, be required to submit a customs declarations for import and export of livestock.

Inspection of North/South and West/East livestock trade can continue to be performed at dispatch and arrival points, as they are today, avoiding any contentious requirement for the introduction of a border inspection post. More advanced vehicle tracking and ‘smart lock’ technology can provide assurance that vehicle journeys have not deviated from agreed routes and that livestock have not left or entered the vehicle during their transportation.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement of 25th November 2018 provided assurance to avoid a hard border between North and South including no physical infrastructure or related checks (on page 303 it recalls “the commitment of the United Kingdom to protect North-South cooperation and its guarantee of avoiding a hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls” and states that “any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements”). This can only be read to mean no checks or controls at the border because there are, as we have shown multiple checks in Northern Ireland now. It is not correct to say that there are no checks and controls in Northern Ireland.

There is an opportunity to use technology to optimise many of the procedures livestock farmers are currently mandated to perform. These improvements will provide significant savings in time and effort for farmers and transporters of livestock, as well as relevant government agencies, and help reduce the impact of new procedures such as customs declarations:

  • The use of mobile technology will allow farmers to perform many of their administration tasks ‘in the field’, freeing up time currently spent in the back office and allowing them to spend more time attending to their livestock
  • Digitising today’s physical documents will reduce time and cost by removing the need to print and manually handle documents such as veterinary certificates, transport sheets and livestock medical records
  • Digitisation paves the way to efficiently exchange data with government agencies where processing and checking can be automated, driving operational efficiency and enabling improved risk assessment capabilities
  • Strengthened ‘identity’ management using DNA testing, location verification (association livestock with the farm holding) and other security mechanisms, all stored electronically on secure ear tags, will significantly reduce the potential for fraud, protecting legitimate farmers and their markets.

The post Numerous checks on livestock already occur in Northern Ireland – but no additional border checks need be required post-Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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UK ‘Ireland-specific’ Brexit plan meets Brussels skepticism

The U.K. presented a long-awaited plan to EU negotiators Wednesday on how to replace the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, but diplomats briefed on the Brexit talks say the proposals fall short of the reassurance that Dublin and Brussels need.

Under the proposal, presented in Brussels by Boris Johnson’s most senior EU adviser, David Frost, the backstop would be removed and replaced with “Ireland-specific” arrangements for checking goods away from the border, according to diplomats briefed on the talks.

In effect, London is offering a commitment to develop alternative custom procedures during the post-Brexit transition period, two EU officials said, although it is unclear if this will satisfy Brussels and Dublin. Leading figures on the EU side have repeated endlessly that they regard the Northern Ireland conundrum as something that must be settled before the U.K. leaves the bloc.

Even though it has been received with some skepticism, the offer marks a significant moment in the U.K. government’s evolving Brexit strategy. With other options such as an October snap general election and leaving with no-deal now seemingly closed off to Johnson, his EU negotiating team has come to Brussels with a more substantive position than before — albeit with what EU diplomats described as a vague verbal-only offer with little detail.

Alternative fixes to the Irish border — such as electronic pre-clearance, pre-border checks and trusted trader schemes — have been publicly discussed during past weeks, but Wednesday was the first time that Frost held a dedicated meeting with EU officials to discuss such customs plans, officials said.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Crucially, the new proposal would allow the U.K., including Northern Ireland, to leave the EU’s customs union. That would permit it to adopt different tariffs on goods if it wanted and to conclude its own trade deals — a key priority for Johnson.

The proposal comes in addition to the U.K.’s idea, shared last week, to create an all-Ireland zone for food regulations such as animal welfare, which would further reduce trade frictions for products from milk to beef that pass the Irish border on a daily basis.

EU spokesperson Mina Andreeva confirmed publicly on Thursday that the U.K. had made a new offer on Wednesday without giving any details. “The U.K. presented ideas in the area of customs and manufactured goods,” she said.

But Brussels reacted with skepticism to the British plans: “We still haven’t gotten any written proposals,” said an EU official, adding that what had been presented could not replace the legal guarantees provided by the backstop. They would also require the EU to trust that there would be enough time during a post-Brexit transition period to develop the ideas before the U.K. fully diverges from EU rules.

Another EU official cautioned the proposals were only “aspirational ideas” and stressed that the U.K. had been unable to explain how they should work in practice. The official that the U.K. negotiators conceded that the plan would inevitably lead to more “non-compliance” with customs rules.

A similar warning came from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier: “At this precise moment … we have no reason to be optimistic,” he told the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents on Thursday.

“We will see in the coming weeks whether the British are able to make concrete written proposals to us that are legally operational,” Barnier added.

Away from the border

To avoid lengthy customs checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which could jeopardize the Good Friday peace agreement, the U.K. plan proposes that authorities conduct checks of customs declarations and exported goods away from the border, two EU officials said.

Those checks would be done directly at the premises of the traders. Moreover, those procedures could be “simplified” for “trusted traders,” the officials said.

A U.K. government spokesperson said: “As the prime minister set out on Monday, there are ideas that we’re bringing forward to address the range of complexities involved with the Northern Ireland border.

“He spoke about two broad areas: facilitations, such as trusted trader schemes, and measures relating to what might need to be done on an all-island basis, such as agri-foods and an SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary measures] area,” the spokesperson continued.

“Under no circumstances,” the spokesperson added, “will we be imposing infrastructure or checks of any kind at the Northern Ireland border.”

Protesters against Brexit and the possible imposition of any hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland gather at the border between Derry and County Donegal | Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

The plan resembles one that Jonathan Faull, a former senior British EU official, and legal academics put forward last month, which suggested creating a network of trade centers away from the border where goods would be checked and duties paid.

However, Sam Lowe, a trade expert with the Centre for European Reform think tank, warned that moving customs checks was not a magic solution. “You have to police businesses that don’t play by the rules. That’s still quite disruptive and risks to undermine the peace process and disrupt the all-Ireland economy,” he said.

In addition to the new customs plan and the previous proposal for an all-Ireland food zone, the U.K. side on Wednesday also proposed an “enhanced market surveillance regime” to the EU that should avoid regulatory divergences on industrial goods.

This regime would be based on an exchange of data; enhanced cooperation between surveillance authorities; and “severe penalties” for breaches, according to the two EU officials. However, they cautioned that there was skepticism on the EU side about whether it was possible to improve on current market surveillance mechanisms.

Renewed vigor

Despite the cool reception in Brussels, EU diplomats say they have noted a change in mood in recent days from U.K. interlocutors, something one diplomat put down to Johnson’s defeats in the House of Commons.

Downing Street’s strategy, which had apparently been predicated on an autumn general election, has been blown off-course by Johnson’s failure to win a two-thirds majority among MPs for an early national poll. With that option closed off, his government is putting more energy into negotiations to find a deal with the EU before October 31.

EU diplomats, though, are concerned that time is running out ahead of the European Council summit on October 17 and 18, by which time they say it will be too late for leaders to digest and decide on new proposals.

The EU will need time before the summit to formalize and coordinate its position among the 27 remaining member countries, the diplomat said: “He cannot just arrive [at the summit] with a card up his sleeve — this is not poker.”

Johnson will be hoping that EU leaders will be so keen to end the Brexit game by that point that they will look at any sensible hand he offers them.

This article is from POLITICO Pro: POLITICO’s premium policy service. To discover why thousands of professionals rely on Pro every day, email for a complimentary trial.

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Does New Zealand provide Brexit lessons for Britain?

What lessons does New Zealand provide for Brexit Britain? Hamish McDougall (LSE) argues that while parallels between New Zealand and Britain in the event of no-deal Brexit are tenuous, New Zealand’s approach to free trade remains a relevant historical case study.

Insights into a no-deal Brexit can be found, of all places, in 1970s New Zealand, according to a recent Bloomberg news article. This follows a similar suggestion by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that New Zealand may be a relevant historical case study for a hard Brexit.

The idea is that New Zealand, long dependent on agricultural exports to Britain (especially dairy and lamb), faced a massive economic, political and cultural ‘shock’ when the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. According to such arguments, the sudden exclusion of New Zealand’s key exports from the EEC inflicted 20 years of pain on the South Pacific nation.

Some Remainers or soft Brexit advocates see this as a salutary lesson for the current UK government, which risks crashing out of the EU with no deal on 31 October. For some Brexit proponents New Zealand, a loyal ally and former colony, was among those ‘betrayed’ by Britain’s turn to Europe in 1973. Others point to New Zealand as an example of a nation successfully ‘going it alone’ on the global stage, overcoming initial hardship to build trade links with fast-growing economies in Asia-Pacific, rather than stagnating ones in Europe. But are these impressions of New Zealand’s response to European integration accurate? An examination of history suggests not.

There is no doubt the New Zealand economy suffered during the 1970s, but European integration was not the key factor. The OPEC oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, monetary crises, rampant inflation and isolationism and trade protection emanating from Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere were arguably more detrimental to New Zealand than enlargement of the EEC. Nor was New Zealand’s need to diversify its export base away from Britain a penny dropping in 1961 or 1973. As early as the 1930s the New Zealand government began the hard slog to find new export markets around the world, as economic historians such as Jim McAloon have shown.

An obvious point, albeit one missed by many commentators, is that Britain’s entry to the EEC in 1973 was not a great shock to New Zealand. Britain first applied to join the EEC in 1961 and the full effects of entry were not felt by third countries until the end of the transition period in 1977. Even the vetoes by French President Charles de Gaulle in 1963 and 1967 could not dissuade most that British accession would happen eventually, providing more than 15 years of adjustment to the idea of the United Kingdom in an enlarged Common Market.

Throughout this period the New Zealand government publicly backed the idea of British membership of the EEC, providing New Zealand’s ‘vital interests’ could be secured in the process. This security came in the form of a special arrangement for New Zealand dairy exports to Britain. It was included as a clause in the Accession Treaty and negotiated with the Six existing EEC members by Britain on New Zealand’s behalf in Luxembourg in June 1971.

Although negotiations were tense and compromises were required on all sides (largely because of French opposition,) it was not a bad deal from New Zealand’s point of view. It allowed over 70% of New Zealand’s dairy exports to remain in the British market by the end of the five-year transition period in 1977, with provisional undertakings to review and extend the arrangement in future. The EEC also pledged to stop ‘dumping’ its excess dairy products into third markets.

New Zealand’s lucrative lamb exports to Britain were not greatly impeded by British entry in 1973. Behind-the-scenes lobbying and separate agreements secured in previous GATT negotiations meant sheepmeat was not yet subject to the EEC’s Common Agricultural Policy (although it was subject to a 20% Common External Tariff). In 1971 it was the British Government which applied a 20% tariff on New Zealand lamb to satisfy the domestic farm lobby, a decision made irrespective of British accession to the Common Market.

New Zealand products previously destined for Britain were slowly finding their way elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s, but not necessarily because of EEC enlargement. Britain’s protectionism, diminished buying power and reduced manufacturing capacity all played a part, as did the opening of China and closer economic relations between New Zealand and Australia.

Nevertheless, the UK government did not betray New Zealand in 1973. Its considerable efforts to secure satisfactory access for New Zealand dairy cost it political capital among its future EEC partners and required financial concessions in other areas, including the UK’s contribution to the Community budget during the transition.

This effort on New Zealand’s behalf was not altogether altruistic. In the early 1970s, the Edward Heath-led Conservative Government was terrified that an alliance of Labour frontbenchers and Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers would seize on New Zealand as a cause célèbre, introducing unpalatable legislative amendments and causing Heath’s European accession bill to fall in the House of Commons. Because of this, Heath and other senior Tory ministers went to considerable lengths to ensure the New Zealand government was happy with the terms of the Accession Treaty. As lead official Sir Con O’Neill put it, this gave the New Zealanders an effective ‘veto’ on British entry.

The special arrangement for New Zealand dairy was further enhanced by the Harold Wilson-led Labour government’s renegotiation in 1975 and eventual accords were agreed with Brussels for sheepmeat, horticulture, dairy and other New Zealand products in the 1980s and 1990s. This kept Britain and the European Union among New Zealand’s top four trade partners into the Twenty-First Century.

Considerable political, diplomatic, economic and cultural links between New Zealand, Britain and Europe remain to this day. New Zealand is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and is on a priority list of countries to do the same with Britain (presuming the UK has an independent trade policy, post-Brexit).

Importantly, the New Zealand strategy in the second half of the Twentieth Century was not to dismantle its existing trade with Britain and Europe in favour of markets elsewhere. Rather, it wanted to retain as much of its traditional agricultural trade with Britain as possible and use these lucrative export receipts to restructure and re-orientate the economy, including expanding new markets in Asia, the Middle East, Australia and USA.

New Zealand’s continued trade with Europe was not incompatible with trade elsewhere, in theory, or practice. Nor has New Zealand stopped advocating for freer world trade within a multilateral, rules-based system. With some hiccups, New Zealand’s strategy has largely proved successful. Modern-day UK politicians could do worse than take note.

So the parallels between New Zealand and Britain in the event of no deal Brexit are tenuous. If there are comparisons to be made, it may be between 1970s New Zealand and current day Ireland: a relatively small former British colony, reliant on trade with Britain but diversifying its markets and keen to express its own national independence, is having a disproportionate influence on the future of European integration. Like New Zealand in the 1970s, Ireland’s influence derives from its deft and dogged negotiating strategy, its international networks, and also from a peculiar set of political circumstances in Westminster. There was no great shock or betrayal for New Zealand in 1973. It remains to be seen if the same can be said of the United Kingdom in 2019.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. Image C00 Public Domain.

Hamish McDougall is undertaking a PhD in the International History Department at LSE. His research topic is Britain’s entry to the European Communities and its relationship with New Zealand in the 1970s.

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Commission finalizes preparations for possible no-deal Brexit

It’s official: EU officials are now treating no-deal Brexit as a potential disaster scenario, with emergency funds authorized to help businesses, workers and regulatory systems in EU27 countries hit hard by a disorderly departure of the U.K.

The European Commission on Wednesday finalized its no-deal preparations and put forward a plan allowing access to two special funds to help address the possible economic impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Under the new proposal, the EU would “extend the scope of the European Solidarity Fund to cover serious financial burden inflicted on Member States directly imputable to a withdrawal without an agreement and that could not be avoided by preparing in advance.”

Assistance from the European Solidarity Fund would include “support to state aid schemes for businesses, measures to preserve existing employment and ensure the functioning of border, customs and sanitary and phytosanitary controls,” the Commission wrote in its communication, adding that it is also proposing “ensuring that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is available to support workers made redundant as a consequence of a withdrawal without an agreement, subject to certain conditions.”

The EU executive also warned that companies and citizens should be prepared for a no-deal scenario, publishing a preparedness checklist for businesses, and proposed technical adjustments in the form of a regulation ensuring basic road freight and road passenger connectivity, a regulation on basic air connectivity, and a regulation on fishing authorizations.

“The short time remaining and the political situation in the United Kingdom have increased the risk that the United Kingdom will withdraw on that date without an agreement,” the Commission wrote.

“In line with the approach that the European Council (Article 50) has emphasised throughout the process, all actors must continue to prepare for all possible outcomes. All actors should therefore now make any necessary final adjustments to their plans in relation to a withdrawal without an agreement on 1 November 2019,” it added.

The Commission also outlined possible extra support for the agriculture sector and small and medium-sized businesses.

“In the agriculture sector, the full spectrum of existing instruments for market support and direct financial support to farmers will be made available to mitigate the worst impact on agri-food markets in a no-deal scenario. National financial support should match EU exceptional market measures, multiplying the impact of the European Union’s intervention,” the Commission wrote.

“The Commission stands ready to act swiftly if Member States decide to amend their structural and investment funds programmes to allocate part of the available resources, within their national envelopes, to deal with challenges caused by a withdrawal without an agreement,” it wrote, adding that the “Commission stands ready to propose amendments to the agreement between the European Union and the European Investment Fund to allow the use of the programme for the Competitiveness of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (COSME) to facilitate access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

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Johnson and Trump eye US-UK trade deal ‘within a year’

BIARRITZ, France — U.S. President Donald Trump wants a trade deal with the U.K. by the summer of 2020, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said following their meeting at the G7 summit.

Acknowledging that a 12-month timetable for a post-Brexit pact with Washington was “very fast,” Johnson nevertheless said he’d “love to” to deliver an agreement that quickly.

“There’s an opportunity to do a great free trade deal with the United States,” Johnson told ITV News. “The president is very gung-ho about that and so am I.”

Johnson made a point of criticizing some elements of U.S. protectionism in his meeting with Trump, acknowledging “tough talks ahead” and highlighting barriers to U.K. food produce entering the American market.

“I don’t think people realise quite how protectionist sometimes the U.S. market can be,” he told ITV. “but what I’m saying to Donald … is, you know, this is a big opportunity for both of us but … we need to see movement from the U.S. side.”

“They want to do it within a year, I’d love to do it within a year, but that’s a very fast timetable”

Johnson also told the BBC that a year-long timetable “is going to be tight” but that suggestions a negotiation could last “years and years” were an “exaggeration.”

A trade deal could face domestic resistance on each side of the Atlantic. While the U.K. government has said it will not change animal welfare standards to allow U.S. products into the U.K., American negotiators will push hard for a deal that benefits their farmers. Senior Democrats in Congress have also warned that they would block any trade deal if the U.K.’s exit from the EU were to destabilize the peace process in Northern Ireland.

The U.K. cannot begin substantive negotiations on trade, or strike new deals, until it has left the EU, which it is currently scheduled to do on October 31.

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Trump admits ‘second thoughts’ on China, but predicts trade win

BIARRITZ, France — Donald Trump today predicted that Beijing would blink first in its trade dispute with the U.S. but also made a rare confession that he had entertained doubts about whether the escalating tit-for-tat tariff duel was the right course.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the U.S. president insisted that the Chinese “want to make a deal much more than I do,” but added that he had “second thoughts about everything.”

In a lively exchange with reporters ahead of their meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz, Trump and Johnson heaped praise on one another but could not hide significant divisions over Trump’s approach to trade and to Russia.

Taking on the increasingly widespread accusation that the U.S.-China trade war is tipping the world into a downturn, with U.S. stocks lurching into a tailspin on Friday, Trump suggested that the media wanted a recession because “maybe that’s the way to get Trump out.”

“Our country is doing really well, we have horrible trade deals but I am straightening them out,” he said. “The biggest one by far is China.”

“We are in favor of trade peace on the whole. The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade” — Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister

Johnson, meeting Trump for the first time as prime minister, gently demurred, venturing what he called “a faint, sheeplike note of our view on the trade war.”

“We are in favor of trade peace on the whole,” he said. “The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade.”

As if to prove Johnson’s point about the faintness of the U.K.’s voice, Trump seemed to have no sense that other countries were pressing him to back down.

“Nobody’s told me that,” Trump shot back after a reporter asked if allies were pressuring him to “give up” his tariff-led efforts to force a trade agreement with China.

Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson heaped praise on one another ahead of their meeting | Pool photo by Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images

“Nobody would tell me that,” he added. “I think they respect the trade war. I can’t say what they’ve been doing to the U.K. and to other places, but from the standpoint of the United States, what [China] has done is outrageous.”

The U.K. finds itself in an awkward position at the G7, seeking to lobby Trump over a post-Brexit trade deal, while also remaining consistent with its long-term foreign policy stance in favor of free trade and other issues. On key dividing lines between the U.S. and European allies, including policy on Iran and Russia, the U.K. is far closer to France and Germany than the U.S.

Asked about the possibility that Trump could invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G7 next year — a proposition that has little support beyond the White House — the U.S. and U.K. leaders said Russia had been the subject of a “lively” discussion at the summit dinner on Saturday evening.

“We had a very good discussion on Russia and President Putin, a lively discussion, but really a good one,” Trump said.

“It was lively,” Johnson agreed.

On Brexit and the prospect of a U.K.-U.S. trade deal, Trump said he had been “stymied” from moving quickly on negotiations by the previous Downing Street administration of Theresa May but that Johnson was “a different person.”

The U.K. and the U.S. cannot enter substantive negotiations on trade or strike a deal until the U.K. has left the EU. Trump suggested EU membership had been an “anchor around their ankle” for the U.K.

Asked what advice he would give Johnson on Brexit, Trump said: “He needs no advice, he’s the right man for the job. I’ve been saying that for a long time. It didn’t make your predecessor [May] very happy.”

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UK weather: Wheat harvest ‘grinds to a halt’ in crushing blow for biscuit lovers after rainfall

Biscuit lovers will be crushed to learn that their treasured teatime treats could be in jeopardy — after heavy rainfall left wheat farmers unable to harvest their crops.

This month’s wet weather has brought the UK’s 2019 wheat harvest to a “shuddering halt”, the deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union has said.

Farmers have reported a good crop yield, but they have been left “frustrated and angry” at the negative effect the rain has had on the quality of the wheat, and at being unable to gather it using combine harvesters as the ground is so soggy, according to Guy Smith. “[The rain] has brought the harvest to a shuddering halt for the past 10 days, outside of the South East,” Mr Smith said.

Most of the wheat that goes into bread making in the UK comes from the South East, which escaped the worst of the difficult harvest weather. But wheat used for biscuits is more likely to have been affected by the rain, Mr Smith said. “The Midlands grow a lot of that sort of wheat and they have been experiencing rain every day in August,” he noted.

Weather has been ‘unkind’

About two-thirds of Britain's wheat is traditionally harvested in August
About two-thirds of Britain’s wheat is traditionally harvested in August (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

“People who rely on British wheat will be concerned that there have been problems,” Mr Smith continued.

However, Mr Smith insisted there was “no need for anyone to panic just yet”.

“The weather has been pretty unkind but…the good news is the forecast is fair for the next 10 days,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s going to be bread riots,” he added.

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The difficulties experienced by farmers this month follows last year’s poor harvest, which came after high rainfall in spring and a long dry spell and baking temperatures in the summer.

Wheat production dropped by 8.6 per cent in 2018 to 13.6 million tonnes, down from 14.8m tonnes in 2017, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Biscuit sales in the UK topped £2.6bn in 2018, with 99 per cent of all households purchasing some form of the snacks.

Additional reporting by PA Media


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UK government no-deal Brexit fears revealed in full

A leaked U.K. government report paints a grim picture of the fallout from a no-deal Brexit, from medicines shortages, multimonth slowdowns at ports and threats to clean drinking water.

Dubbed “Operation Yellowhammer,” the report prepared by the Cabinet Office and published by The Times imagines a “base scenario” on the Brexit crash-out date of October 31, marked by unprepared business, hostile EU member countries and impending cold weather that could exacerbate food and medical supply problems.

Further, the report notes the risk that “increasing EU Exit fatigue” could hamper contingency planning after the original March 29 Brexit date was postponed.

A person quoted in The Times as a “senior Whitehall source” said, “This is not Project Fear — this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal. These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios — not the worst case.”

The government said while it did not expect such outcomes, they were being looked at as part of no-deal preparations, according to the BBC.

The release comes as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands by his position that Britain will leave the EU on October 31 with or without a Brexit deal, ahead of meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron expected Wednesday and Thursday.

As MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit mull ways to stop the U.K. crashing out of the bloc, Johnson reportedly told conservative MPs such efforts risked undermining the U.K.’s negotiating strategy. “It is as plain as a pikestaff that Brussels — or the EU 27 — will simply not compromise as long as they believe there is the faintest possibility that Parliament can block Brexit on 31 October,” Johnson wrote in a letter, according to the Mail on Sunday.

The government’s no-deal plans, printed in full by The Times today, anticipate a chaotic situation emerging at the Irish border. While the U.K. will initially stick to its March promise to avoid most new checks, that’s “likely to prove unsustainable because of economic, legal and biosecurity risks.”

Job losses and disruption to some industries “are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockades” around the Irish border.

On the first day of a no-deal Brexit, the flow of goods through French ports could be reduced by 40-60 percent of current levels, the plans warn, estimating that 50-85 percent of high-volume truck operators aren’t prepared for French customs checks. Even after three months, flow rates may only increase to 70 percent, “although disruption could continue much longer,” the plans state.

While the availability of drinking water is “likely to remain largely unaffected,” it remains a risk that disruptions in the availability of chemicals could affect the supply of clean water for “hundreds of thousands of people” on a localized basis.

Parts of the food supply chain — including the availability of fresh foods as well as ingredients and packaging — could also be impacted, leading to reduced choice and price rises, according to the no-deal plans.

More than 100 cross-party MPs wrote to Johnson on Saturday asking him to recall parliament from its summer break, arguing the country faces a “national emergency.”

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Boris Johnson: UK-US trade deal will be a ‘tough old haggle’

Brokering a transatlantic trade deal won’t be easy but can be done, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday.

“It will be a tough old haggle, but we’ll get there,” Johnson told Sky News.

“In my experience, the Americans are very tough negotiators indeed,” he said, adding that the U.S. market “is growing very fast for the U.K., but they still ban haggis, for heaven’s sake.”

Johnson also said reaching a post-Brexit deal with the EU will be most important.

“The single biggest deal that we need to do is a free trade agreement with our friends and partners over the Channel.”

Johnson’s comments come a day after John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said during a visit to the U.K. that the two countries could broker sector-by-sector deals to reach bilateral agreements “very quickly, very straightforwardly.”

Bolton’s comments have been dismissed by trade experts, who say piecemeal deals based on tariff reductions in one sector would not comply with World Trade Organization rules.

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