19th October 2016
The cartoonists, of course, had a field day. We are now at roughly the half-way point between the Brexit vote and the formal “triggering” of our departure from the European Union. Some of the chickens are coming home to roost. The impact on rural areas is going to be particularly noticeable.
As I write this, fishermen are meeting in Newlyn to consider what their industry might look like in a few years. Freed of the Common Fisheries Policy, which was widely blamed for the decline in Cornwall’s maritime interests, there is eager anticipation that “getting our fishing waters back” will now follow.
Well, maybe. It was only a few years ago that British fishermen needed protection from the Royal Navy as 40 French boats surrounded five British vessels during the so-called “Scallop War” in the English Channel.
Britain only ever had 13 per cent of the EU’s total sea area – but had been allocated 30 per cent of the total catch quota, and had the right to fish just about anywhere. Perhaps the real problem is that we just don’t eat enough fish – nearly two thirds of all fish landed in Britain are exported to other EU countries.
At the moment, those fish exported from Cornwall to Europe are free of additional taxes. But outside of the EU, tariffs are almost certain. I have to say that I don’t see a massive expansion of the Cornish fishing fleet any time soon.
Cornwall’s farmers were divided over Brexit, but none will welcome the prospect of beef tariff exports of 59 per cent. Dairy farmers whose income depends partly from cheese exports will soon be looking at tariffs of 40 per cent. Cornish vineyards might not export a huge amount, but a 14 per cent tariff will not help their market to grow.
Plenty of farmers have warned that unless they are allowed to hire (cheap) migrant workers, their crops will have to rot in the ground. One farmer went on TV last week to predict that Britain will run out of fresh fruit and vegetables in only five days once the migrant agricultural workers have gone.