How to avoid making a pig’s ear of Brexit

At least Micheal Gove has a plan – and you’ll be glad to know it is a cunning one to sell pigs’ ears to China.
Elsewhere in Government, we have seen attempts to speed up the Brexit negotiations… in order to ensure things stay more or less the same after we leave the EU, for a while at least.

Theresa May’s trip to Florence was an attempt to break the deadlock after her Government appeared to be making, well, a pig’s ear of things. The outcome was the foundation of a deal for a two-year transition period ensuring the status quo, more or less until 2021.

If agreed, this would surely be a good thing for the pig sector, and wider agriculture, such is the uncertainty surrounding trade and labour supply. Any disruption to exports in the form of tariffs or border costs and delays, particularly if the same measures weren’t applied to imports, would be damaging.
Breathing space would be welcome. It was also reassuring to hear Defra officials talking of a desire to roll forward current trade arrangements outside the EU as far as possible.

But labour remains a big concern. The leaked Home Office document spelling out a hardline approach to immigration sent out a warning to this industry. We clearly need to make the case to Government for why we need access to permanent and so-called (but not really) ‘low-skilled’ EU workers. So if you haven’t yet filled in the NPA’s online EU labour survey – please do so.

Meanwhile, Mr Gove was in fine form giving evidence to MPs on his approach to Brexit, promising to stand up for the farming industry, while insisting that there really is a ‘deep appreciation’ within Cabinet that agriculture matters in the talks.

He was categoric there would be ‘no compromise of our high environmental or animal welfare standards in pursuit of a trade deal’, even if chlorine-washed chicken was all that stood between sealing a lucrative US deal (how the media storm over the 2 Sisters poultry operation affects this debate remains to be seen).
And pig’s ears? Asked about our ability to negotiate new deals with the likes of China, Mr Gove pointed out that we already send a range of pig products there.

“One of those products, cherished in China, is the pig’s ear,” he said. “However, because of the way you put a ring in a pig’s ear in order to properly identify the animal, that is seen as a less valuable product. Outside of the EU we can dispense with the ring, not only earning more for ears but also making sure that we are getting value nose to tail from the creature. This is a small but tangible and real benefit of leaving the European Union.”

We certainly look forward to seeing it in action.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.