By Tim Price

After 1286 days of bitter wrangling, the United Kingdom has set sail on its voyage of independence from the safe harbour of the European Union.

Will it be plain sailing for British farmers, free from EU bureaucracy, or a journey into uncharted waters?

Following December’s election win for Conservative Boris Johnson, a calm has descended on UK politics. Brexit day –January 31 – passed with little fuss beyond hard-core Brexiteers and Remainers.

Now it’s all hands on deck to negotiate an EU trade agreement before December, with Donald Trump ready to scupper it in favour of a United States deal.

The threat of a trade deal with the US worries farmers most. Abi Reader, farming an 800-acre dairy unit in Wales and an NFU Dairy Board member, is a Remainer whose nightmare scenario is a soft deal with the US.

“It would be a disaster for the UK’s 8700 dairy farmers if we end up with a US trade deal allowing inferior products to flood our markets.”

Changes to government support for agriculture are another storm cloud on the horizon. The newly published Agriculture Bill charts a seven-year switch from land-based support to “Public Money for Public Goods”. This is undefined, but ministers indicate it’s about environmental enhancement. Farmers note with sinking hearts that the Bill makes no mention of improving food security or the nation’s nutrition.

Below decks on HMS Britannia, mutiny brews – another barrier to building export markets. Scotland wants to leave the UK and rejoin the EU; Northern Ireland farmers see their future threatened by an EU border with the south.

Stormy waters ahead.