During a debate in the House of Commons in July 2021, Victoria Prentis, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister, said that the farming and fishing industries “have really gained from Brexit”.
As a result of Brexit, farmers are facing stringent cuts to their subsidies, as they no longer receive payments under the EU’s common agricultural policy and many farmers are facing increased uncertainty because of the impact of Brexit and new trade deals.
The UK pig industry wrote to George Eustice, the environment secretary, in January saying they faced “higher costs, falling prices and a shrinking market” as a result of Brexit, and asked the government for help after Brexit-related border problems led to more than 100,000 surplus pigs backed up on farms around the country.
One west country farmer, Ann Willcocks, responded to Victoria Prentice’s remarks as follows: “not because of Brexit - you only have to look at the struggles that exporters have had, especially shellfish and lamb - the bureaucracy has added time and cost. Europe wants our products, but there are significant difficulties in getting them there, not forgetting Europe is the gateway to the wider European countries outside of the European Economic Community.
“Trade deals with NZ and Australia as a result of Brexit could be damaging to UK agriculture, but only time will tell, there is nothing there that any UK farmer finds exciting or opportunistic.”
For fishermen, under the terms of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the EU’s fishing quota in UK waters will be reduced by 25 per cent over the next five years, with the UK theoretically able to exclude EU boats from coastal waters after 2026.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, criticised the deal agreed by Johnson with Brussels, saying that in practice, the agreement had created an “exploitative and asymmetric” relationship that would give the EU leverage to retain access to UK waters well beyond 2026.
It is hard to say for certain what the impact of Brexit has been on UK farmers and fishermen, as the additional impacts of the pandemic are still being felt, but it is clear that at least some UK farmers and fishermen disagree with Victoria Prentis’ verdict.
When we approached Ms Prentis’ office for comment, a spokesperson responded: "Given Victoria is a Minister of State in Boris Johnson’s government, she will not be responding to your request."