Lib Dems in Brecon and Radnorshire byelection: ‘No-deal Brexit will decimate Welsh farmers’
Brecon and Radnorshire will feel the economic pain of leaving the EU without a deal, according to the Liberal Democrat candidate in the seat.
Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Jane Dodds is the favourite to win the byelection on Thursday, 1 August.
However, with the Conservatives enjoying a bounce in the polls after Boris Johnson’s ascension to party leader, she knows she can take nothing for granted.
She hopes however that with the new Prime Minister flirting with no-deal, it will focus minds on the consequences of Brexit in a primarily agricultural constituency.
“Here in Brecon and Radnorshire, farming and agricultural communities rely on lamb for example, and if we come out of the EU without a deal 40% tariffs will slap on lamb that’s exported to Europe,” she said.
“Straight away, that could mean farmers are going out of business and this beautiful environment we live in as well as our economy would immediately be affected.”
EU tariffs on agricultural products can be high. For lamb it’s more than 40%, and dairy averages over 35%. According to the NFU, World Trade Organisation Tariffs could be up to 67% on lamb exported in the event of those conditions.
“We’ve talked about Powys but there’s also other issues like access to labour,” she said. “We know for example that 40% of people who work in Abattoirs are from the European Union. 90% of vets who work in our abattoirs are also from the EU.”
The meat processing industry recruits the majority of it’s staff from the EU according to Food Manufacture and the Lords EU Environment Committee confirmed the 90% figure and that the UK is “overwhelmingly reliant” on those workers.
“So, there are major issues affecting farmers and the agricultural community,” she said. “It’s all about talking to them. I think we’ve all learnt an awful lot more in the last 3 years.”
With the UK Government reduced to a majority of one if she wins the byelection, Jane Dodds says her own vote could be essential to stopping a no-deal.
She was helped by the decision of Plaid Cymru and the Greens not to contest the seat, and to call on Remain supporters from their own parties to back Dodds.
“It’s really important for me to have a strong voice in Westminster. I know how important it is for farmers and agriculture that they have a strong voice in Parliament,” she said.
“I’ve campaigned to ensure a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table because that’s going to decimate Welsh farmers. So that’s why I’m standing.
“We’re being upfront, we’re the party of remain. The Lib Dems have always been the party of remain because that’s what we believe is best for our community.”
When asked about her stance given that Wales voted 52.5% in favour of remaining and Powys voting 53.7% for that side too she said “there’s been no change at all”.
“We’ve had three years where we’ve learnt an awful lot more about coming out of the EU,” she said.
“[On the day of the referendum] I was not aware of the issues facing the Irish Border and I count myself fairly well politically read… It’s very interesting to me and I’ve learnt a lot more about it.
“I think, in terms of democracy, Parliament has made no decisions – we should be taking this back to the people.
“We’re campaigning for the opportunity for a People’s Vote – to bring it back into the democratic process so that people can have a say on what should now happen.”
Jane Dodds did not just want to talk about Brexit, however. And part of her message has been that dealing with Brexit has stopped Westminster dealing with other important issues to the constituency.
“Politics for the past three years has been totally paralysed by Brexit and because of that we’ve forgotten about what communities need,” she said.
“People are just fed up with this. They want us to look at the issues that affect them. And that’s what I’m campaigning on – the local issues and to get a strong voice in Westminster for them. That makes sure their lives are improved. The standards are better for them.
“We need to get on with things. We need to demonstrate that we can work hard on their behalf.
“I would represent the people on local issues which affect their communities to things like having much a much better broadband, keeping the banks open, to make sure we get affordable housing and jobs for young people in our communities.
“Secondly, how we protect our rural way of life. The agriculture and farming. It’s really important here – to the economy in mid-Wales.
“Thirdly, I want to bring a fresh politics here. I want to look at how we can work together. It’s one of those challenges we have across the political parties.
“I don’t have all the answers. I think we can work together on things like the climate emergency and the issue here is social justice.
“I think we can really demonstrate an adult way of approaching some of these issues. So those are the reasons that the people of Brecon and Radnorshire should vote for me.
“We’ve had we may at times think that people are arguing with each other and internally… and we really need to see what our communities need.
“We’re here to represent the people who we stand for and that hasn’t happened all the time in politics.”