A senior member of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which was instrumental in the British vote to leave the EU last year, now says that it’s vital to keep access to Europe’s common market, farm subsidies and cheap migrant labor.
Mark Reckless, who chairs the committee for Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs in the devolved legislature for Wales, said in a report on the effects of Brexit on the farming industry published Friday, that “we have heard clear evidence that access to the Single Market place (sic), continuation of financial support and assurances over migrant labor are critical priorities,” according to broadcaster ITV.
“As chairman of the committee, he would have had to speak with the voice of the committee,” a UKIP spokesman said. “You don’t win every battle.”
The committee includes members from three other parties, including the Conservatives who are in government in Westminster. But the fact that UKIP’s Reckless, the committee chairman, wasn’t able to water down the language speaks volumes.
Farmers get more of their income directly from EU subsidies than any other major part of the U.K.’s workforce and have been sharply divided over the merits of leaving the EU. Some look forward to greater freedom in using their land, but the thoughts of most are dominated by whether the U.K. government will maintain the degree of subsidy they currently enjoy. Others worry that they could be shut out of a market that currently takes two-thirds of U.K. agricultural exports. A further concern is that the (currently unlimited) supply of cheap seasonal labor from Eastern European EU states will dry up, given the commitment of Prime Minister Theresa May to cut immigration.
May will formally announce Britain’s intention to leave the EU next week. In doing so, she’ll start a two-year process in which the two sides have to hammer out a deal to replace their existing ties on trade, investment, labor and much else. If they fail, many fear the U.K. economy faces a “cliff edge effect” as it loses the unlimited access it currently has to the EU’s Single Market of 500 million people. May has said that she would be prepared to walk away from a “bad” deal and try to get by without one.
UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage, by contrast, has said remaining in the Single Market, which would keep trade disruption to a minimum but force the U.K. to accept unlimited migration, would be a “great betrayal” of the referendum vote. Farage himself had memorably appeared on TV the morning after the referendum to disavow claims made by the Conservative-led “Leave” campaign that the U.K. would be able to spend 350 million pounds ($440 million) a week extra on its struggling health service if it left the EU, after failing to challenge the claims all through the campaign.