Gove will pay no-deal Brexit farming bill, vows Scottish agriculture secretary
Fergus Ewing said the cost of a no-deal Brexit to farmers must be covered by the UK Government.
Michael Gove will be liable for billions of pounds of a no-deal Brexit farming bill, Scotland’s agriculture secretary has vowed.
Speaking before a meeting with the UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Secretary, Fergus Ewing said the cost of a no-deal Brexit to farmers must be covered by the UK Government.
Mr Ewing said he would follow the lead of Irish agriculture minister Michael Creed, who will seek more than 500 million euros of aid from Brussels if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal at the end of March.
He said: “Of course we will absolutely continue to champion the case for farmers and if there are costs to farmers resultant from a no-deal then Mr Gove is responsible for them. He has said so himself.
“It’s going to be billions.
“I would far rather eliminate a catastrophic no-deal than deal with it after it’s happened.”
Insisting Mr Gove must rule out no deal, Mr Ewing said such a scenario would be impossible for the Scottish Government to mitigate and costs would need to be recovered centrally.
“We have made it absolutely clear, and I will make it clear to Michael Gove when I meet him today, that the additional costs that arise are the responsibility of the UK Government,” he said.
“All the costs resultant from a no-deal process would be the responsibility of the UK Government and we will have to recover those costs from the UK Government.
“They have already made some provision for the cost of hiring extra civil servants, so they have already accepted the principle and this would simply be putting it into practice.”
Mr Ewing said the jobs of four million people working in the food and drink industry were on the line.
The Scottish food and drink industry is expected to lose £2 billion every year in a no-deal scenario, he said, and pointed out that companies were already “stockpiling” in preparation for no deal, “particularly in the meat industry”.
“It’s a colossal amount of money,” he said. “This goes beyond the normal argy-bargy in politics about what the prudent thing to do is and takes it into a whole realm of culpability, which the UK Government has admitted.
“I’m not going there to persuade the UK Government a no-deal is catastrophic – they have already admitted that, and that’s what makes their continued playing of the no-deal option so reprehensible.”
Scottish rural affairs minister Marie Gougeon said no Brexit would be preferable to no deal or the current draft deal.
“I don’t think it’s fair for the UK Government to portray that there is that binary choice, that we have to either support a deal or there could potentially be a no-deal Brexit,” she said.
“Our job is to do what’s best for Scotland and what’s best for Scotland would be, well, not having Brexit at the current moment because of the way things currently stand and how catastrophic that would be for the whole country.
“There are more options there and it’s our job as a responsible Government and looking after the best interests of the people of Scotland to make sure that we represent that here and right now, that would be ruling out the no-deal option.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “The Government has been clear that we do not want a no-deal scenario, but it is the job of any responsible government, including the Scottish Government, to prepare for all possible scenarios.
“We have already carried out significant no-deal preparations and have contingency plans in place to minimise disruption as much as possible.”
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