With negotiations stalled, Britain is facing leaving the European Union without a deal guiding the future relationship with the economic block of nations

By Simon Perry
June 11, 2019 01:58 PM
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Prince William and Kate Middleton were caught up in the debate about Brexit when they spoke to farmers in the Lake District on Tuesday.

Members of the royal family typically steer clear of political discussions to remain neutral, but while they sat down with a group of farmers, William asked if they were “worried” about Brexit.

The royal couple were told that a no-deal Brexit could be a “perfect storm” that could force many farmers out of business.

With negotiations stalled, Britain is facing leaving the European Union without a deal guiding the future relationship with the economic block of nations.

The couple met a group of farmers around a kitchen table at a farm in Patterdale near Ullswater in Cumbria where they visited to hear about the challenges they face.

Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge
Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/AP Images

Adam Day, who runs the Cumbria Farmer Network, a non-profit organization supporting farmers, told the couple: “The reality is that there is not enough income to make a living from old-fashioned traditional sheep farming or cattle farming. They have got to do other things to survive.”

Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge
Kate Middleton and Prince William
| Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/AP Images

After William asked whether they were worried about Brexit, Sam Rawling, 36, who farms in west Cumbria, said: “I was quite surprised that farmers voted for Brexit, to be honest. It’s like turkeys voting for Christmas.”

Day added, “The worst case post-Brexit is absolutely dire.”

He told William and Kate that farmers could face 40% tariffs on lamb exports if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, and farms could lose half their value. Farmers, who until now have had up to 91% of their net income from support payments, would also lose the support they have had from the Common Agricultural Policy over the next seven years, he said.

“The worst case scenario is a real black hole that a lot of farmers would struggle to get through.”

Rawling said his family had been farming there for 500 years, and he was “apprehensive” about the future.

Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge
Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/AP Images

“It is a bit of a concern,” he said. “I would not want to be the last generation after 500 years. I would not want to be the one that fails after 500 years.”

William also asked them about how climate change (an issue close to his dad Prince Charles’ heart) might affect them. Jim Cockbain said that they were worried that it might mean even more rainfall.

The notorious Lake District weather also prompted some rainfall banter between the farmers. When William asked Rawling, who farms where it is flatter, whether the rain was different there, he said: “It is massively different. We get it all.”

That prompted a laugh from Jimmy Brown, 41, whose father Chris, 67, owns Deepdale Hall Farm where they were talking. “I don’t think so,” he said.