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British farmers feeling sheepish over Brexit-inspired New Zealand lamb deal

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain as the supply line crisis continues to threaten our traditional way of life...

Sheep farmers wear face masks at Knighton Livestock Market in Powys. Photo: David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images.

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain as the supply line crisis continues to threaten our traditional way of life (milkshakes, footlong subs, peri-peri chicken, Dutch lager… that sort of thing).

But what other treats does Brexit have in store? One to watch is Liz Truss’ coming-soon trade deal with New Zealand, likely to make it easier and cheaper for Kiwi farmers to send lamb to these shores, just as you-know-what has made it tougher for British farmers to export their lamb to the closest major market, Europe.

The National Sheep Association is already warning that its sector “could end up being the sacrificial lamb for the benefit of other industries”, though stopped short of saying the government were trying to fleece farmers while pulling the wool over their eyes.

Enraging Scottish lamb producers yet further is the appointment of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell as Britain’s trade envoy to New Zealand, as part of the dazzling rollout of 10 new envoys (all white, eight male). These include trade expert Sir Ian Botham, who said on joining the Lords: “I will be at Westminster… when they are debating something I know about – like sport or the countryside. Not much point if it’s a trade deal with Japan.”

Mundell is now in the unique position of helping New Zealand farmers flood the UK with cheap lamb while also representing a constituency with sizeable sheep farms. His majority at the last election, 3,781, looks as vulnerable as the businesses of those farmers who voted for him.

The upside of the NZ deal? Scotland’s farmers will be able to drown their sorrows while paying about 20p less in tariffs for a bottle of £6 Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. But when the UK government takes £3.25 of that in tax and VAT, is it really worth it? For that matter, is Brexit really worth it?

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