The costs of a no-deal Brexit could spell bankruptcy for up to a quarter of the UK’s rural businesses, it has been estimated.
The president of lobbying group the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Tim Breitmeyer, said that many farmers and other rural businesses were already struggling and for up to a quarter of them, a no-deal Brexit could “tip some businesses over the top”.
“Agriculture is not making very much money,” he told the Guardian. “[…] If you have a tariff to add to your problems, if you have increased costs to add to your problems, it’s only going to make matters worse and tip some businesses over the top.
“Now I don’t know whether that’s 15% or 25% but I’m absolutely sure there will be quite a few farming businesses for which it actually just tips them into receivership.”
The rural vote in the UK was overwhelmingly to Leave, but Breitmeyer called this “a protest vote for the fact that Britain got abandoned”.
He said that many rural voters are now considering voting Liberal Democrat rather than Tory.
“There are an awful lot of people who are really questioning whether next time round that [Tory] is the way they are going to vote,” he said to the Guardian. “I think there will be quite a lot of people who look to see whether the Liberal Democrats [have better policies].
When Breitmeyer took over the helm at the CLA in 2017, he told the East Anglian Daily Times that Brexit “will impact on rural areas more than any other part of the economy” but that it also provides opportunities to improve farming.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron, who supports the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, reacted to the warning by saying: “British agriculture faces a number of challenges, but none as severe as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
“For all the promises this government has made to farmers, a quarter of rural farms could go bust as a result of their flagship policy.
“No real support has been offered to these people, and that’s not right.
“We cannot let Brexit impoverish our countryside.”