DESPITE promising to ‘get Brexit done to support British farmers’, the recent trade deal with Australia will, according to the National Farmers’ Union, cause “irreversible damage” to rural communities and “the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK”.

Small family farms across our communities within Skipton and Ripon could be priced out by cheap imports from large-scale Australian agriculture companies. Their economies of scale allow them to undercut prices, and they use inhumane and environmentally damaging practices that are, rightly, banned in the UK.

As our first post-Brexit trade deal, this will set a precedent for all future deals, ushering in a new era of unregulated, tariff-free trade that will spell disaster for our farming communities while protecting the interests of global capital and the wealthy elite.

Many wrongly assume the Tories are the political home of England’s rural farming communities, that people who live in the countryside have always voted Tory and always will and of course, that is a reality within Skipton and Ripon, but the Tories cannot take people’s votes for granted forever.

Our rural communities have deep-rooted cooperative traditions and values that stretch back for generations. That tradition of cooperating to build wealth in rural communities continues today through the work of Labour in local government.

It is essential we move away from carbon-intensive food imports and making Britain food-secure is an integral part of tackling the twin climate and ecological emergencies.

Labour would reduce the carbon footprint of our food by supporting sustainable farmers who produce and sell food locally and increase domestic food self-sufficiency.

We would also encourage eco-friendly practices such as agro-forestry, greening our agricultural economy so that UK farmers can deliver for climate justice.

At such a crucial juncture for the farming and agricultural sector, the government should be empowering rural communities to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, putting farmers and agricultural workers in the driving seat. Instead, the Tories are set on signing away the viability of UK farming, without thought or care for the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.

But Labour is listening. We will always stand up for all our diverse communities, whether rural or urban, centring the needs of people over global capital. That’s why we’ll continue to oppose this trade deal and any that are similar, and why we will fight to empower rural communities to build the local, sustainable agricultural sector that our people and our planet need.

Brian McDaid

Skipton and Ripon Labour Party Representative.