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Boris Johnson named UK prime minister - but what ag challenges does he need to tackle?

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Boris Johnson has been elected to the position of the leader of the Conservative Party in the UK and today will take his place as the prime minister.


But what challenges will he face to support the UK’s agricultural industry?


Perhaps the biggest concern is that Mr Johnson has said he would leave the EU without a deal, in order to meet the October 31 withdrawal deadline.

 

No deal ’catastrophic’

 

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has repeatedly warned that a no-deal Brexit would be "catastrophic" for UK farming, mainly because of its reliance on trade with the EU. This is particularly so for the livestock sectors.


Mr Johnson has branded fears over no-deal as "scaremongering" and said the economic warnings (£90bn costs to the economy, according to the chancellor, Philip Hammond) are "wildly over done".


Speaking to farmers in Cumbria on July 9, Mr Johnson said: “We have to prepare to come out without a deal - the way to do that is to ensure farmers have proper protections and they are given the insulation they need.”


But so far, he has failed to give any specifics about what protections he would give.


More recently, he has insisted that a deal with the EU could be reached by October 31 if the country "rediscovers its sense of mission".


But commentators and some fellow Tories have said there is no reason why Mr Johnson could get a better deal than Theresa May. Plus, the EU has said it is not up for another negotiation.


Mr Johnson has repeatedly claimed that current UK-EU trading terms could be maintained under Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) while a future trade deal is negotiated. But this has widely been disputed as not possible.


Scottish farming ’short-changed’


Mr Johnson has pledged to give £160m in "back payments" to Scottish farmers, who have long claimed they were short-changed by the British government’s handling of EU convergence funding.


He said a consultation with the Scottish government would take place to hand the money to farmers as quickly as possible.


In a recent letter to NFU Scotland, he said: “We need a Brexit that creates the right conditions for farming in Scotland to thrive, and that works as best as it can for the 8,500 agricultural businesses the length and breadth of Scotland you represent.”


But speaking at last month’s Royal Highland Show, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, warned ‘Boris would be a disaster for Scotland’, and that he showed a ‘centralising tendency which runs counter to devolution’.

 

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