Fish farmers not alone in fearing lost EU aid

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Scottish fears of all but the very best Brexit scenarios appear to be growing, after a study by Scotland’s Rural College concluded, in essence, that anything but the status quo with the European Union trading block would hurt deeply.

It seems farmers of beef, sheep and dairy — in addition to fish farmers — stand to lose there “direct financial support” akin to the EU’s Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The scenarios looked at by the College were a “bespoke deal similar to the inner market”; a “most favoured nation tariff” and “unilateral trade liberalization”.

All were declared “a serious risk” to Scottish farming.

Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, said that, “if any of these scenarios were combined with the removal of direct support payments at current levels, the financial consequences for Scottish farms would be much more significant, with pronounced reduction in net profitability across beef, sheep, and crop sectors.

Fish, too, would be hit: The EU’s direct financial support for Scottish aquaculture and wild-catch so far in 2018 has amounted to GBP 3 million in support for growth projects alone. A similar EU arrangement and small-farm subsidies fund Scottish livestock farmers.

Read Scots’ Brexit worries pile up

Steven Thomson, a senior agricultural economist at the Rural College, said that the EU’s traditional protection of the agriculture sector makes Brexit complicated.

“Our results highlight the potential threats, and opportunities, to the profitability of different Scottish farming sectors under possible post-Brexit trade and policy scenarios.”

Threats and opportunities in the report appeared to converge in the prospect of higher-prices for the consumer under all but the “unilateral trade liberalization deal” which, for beef especially, could see prices fall by over 30 percent.