The Prime Minister having announced that the Government intends to give formal notice of withdrawal under Article 50 of the EU Treaty next spring, the UK is likely to cease to be a member state in 2019. The Chancellor has more or less promised that payments to farmers will continue as if nothing had happened until 2020 there is some doubt about the detail but then what? The UK farming industry might turn out to be as big a loser as the fishing industry was when the UK joined in 1973.

If the UK does not retain access to the EU `single market', and the Prime Minister has already said to the President of the NFU that might be `difficult', UK farmers may have EU tariffs to pay on their exports to Europe, leaving them with a choice of raising their price and selling less or maintaining their price and making less money 17.5% in the case of exports of lamb according to one consultant.

If the UK is able to negotiate trade deals with other countries, those might allow imports of farm produce to go on sale on terms that UK farmers would struggle to match. The deals which the EU has been negotiating with Canada and the USA would both allow tariff free imports if they are ever concluded. They have to be ratified by all the EU member states; a state parliament in Belgium is refusing to approve the Canadian treaty, which has taken 7 years to negotiate; until it changes its mind, Belgium cannot ratify. The proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership with the USA may founder too, because of the protectionist line taken by both the US presidential candidates. UK negotiators may be tempted to offer the same concessions as the EU as a quid pro quo for access to the foreign markets for UK products, comforting themselves with the thought that New Zealand farming survived a financial upheaval in the 1970's and so UK farming should be able to too.

As for a UK deal with the EU, if the problem for Belgium in ratifying the EU's Canadian treaty is anything to go by, one or more of the remaining 27 member states may baulk at whatever the UK and EU negotiators came up with, and that could be the end of it.

Add to these negative possibilities the Conservative Party's avowed intent to reduce or eliminate production subsidies and the outlook for UK farming beyond 2020 does not look rosy. At least there might by then be more efficient delivery of whatever subsidies survive. The Rural Payments Agency is still struggling with some 2015 payments. The situation in Scotland is worse. Some 2015 payments are outstanding there too, and the Scottish Government has had to offer loans in November, using its own funds, because its persistent IT problems will not be cured in time to make timely 2016 payments with EU funds.