With a second Brexit deadline missed, the political and business uncertainty continues, only this time with less clarity over the shape of the EU withdrawal and its date, plus a general election thrown in for good measure.
The putative Jan 31st 2020 exit deadline agreed by the EU could be shortened if there is a Conservative/leave alliance majority on December 12th, or alternatively extended to allow for a second referendum should a more remain-focussed election result emerge. The new administration will also be faced with a changed regime in Brussels that is still finding its feet, which could delay decision making.
Michael Gove’s Agriculture Bill, first debated in Parliament a year ago and reintroduced in the farcical Queen’s Speech last month, falls again unless a Conservative majority allows it to reappear for a third time. Meanwhile, the Theresa May administration pledged to maintain farm support at CAP levels to 2022 – but now that Parliament is dissolved, does the guarantee still stand?
Johnson’s tweaking of May’s Withdrawal Bill – the one he resigned from the Cabinet over – relieves the Northern Ireland border position in the short term as it weakens the very fabric holding the United Kingdom together. And his electioneering insistence that there will be no extension to the end-2020 transition period (originally designed to start on March 31st this year) to negotiate and ratify a free trade agreement with the EU does not bode well – although the government’s record of meeting deadlines is not good.
Disruption to farm planning, and the demands it puts on the industry’s suppliers, is difficult enough, as the current dreadful autumn weather underlines. The added political uncertainty is causing very real problems, as the recent pressure on the UK grain trade and logistics services to execute export business by October 31st showed.
Certainty is needed, but we have a six week wait to find out if a general election can provide it.