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DEFRA refutes claims that no sheep market analysis is being done

Alistair Carmichael MP has branded conservative ministers “woefully irresponsible”.

This week saw the MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, claim that a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) response showed that the UK Government has not conducted any analysis of the impact of Brexit on sheep farming in the UK — a claim that DEFRA has now denied.

The MP’s claims come following a response to a FOI request to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), made by the Liberal Democrats, which the party have said confirms the department did not hold any information or documents relating to an assessment of the impact of Brexit on sheep farming.

A DEFRA spokeswoman responded this week saying this is not the case and, while no formal impact assessment has been done by the department, “a considerable amount of analysis is being done behind the scenes.”

“That’s being used to prepare for it there is a no-deal Brexit,” the spokeswoman said, “also DEFRA is in regular contact with sheep sector stakeholders from across the UK, to discuss this analysis. We have been sharing information to help the sector prepare for that scenario.”

However, Mr Carmichael is standing by his claims, saying behind the scenes analysis is a totally different level of depth than the full impact assessment expected to be done on such a massive change.

He has branded conservative ministers “woefully irresponsible” for “failing to safeguard the sector from the impact of Brexit.”

Speaking while making his claims, earlier in the week, prior to the response from DEFRA, Mr Carmichael said: “When Conservatives think of farmers, they think of the big landowners and the estates This [FOI] response shows that they have no interest in, or concern for, the hill farmers and crofters whose businesses are the backbone of so many of our remote rural communities.

“To run their business, farmers need certainty. They need to know what funding is available, what standards must be met and what tariffs need to be paid.

“It is therefore appalling that Conservative ministers have failed to conduct an impact assessment on the impact of Brexit on sheep farming. These ministers are woefully irresponsible. Farmers deserve better.”

“Behind the scenes analysis falls well short of the in-depth impact assessment that farmers and crofters deserve. It is like not doing your homework, but trying to cover the fact by saying that you put together a mind map. Simply unacceptable. By the government’s own admission, they have done nothing, and know of no work to do an impact assessment on the industry.

“They have let the industry, and our farming and crofting communities down.”

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