Making his first official visit as prime minister to Wales, Johnson met on Tuesday with first minister Mark Drakeford and held talks regarding Brexit and the impacts and supposed opportunities it has for Wales. He also met with Welsh farmers who gave a stark warning of the impacts posed by a no-deal Brexit.
“I think the union that is the United Kingdom is more at risk today than at any time in my political lifetime,” Drakeford said in a statement, adding that the “prime minister needs to think about the future of the United Kingdom in genuinely serious way”.
During the meeting, Drakeford warned Johnson over the severe damage a no-deal Brexit would do to Welsh agriculture, a large sector of the Welsh economy, and the rural life of its farmers and communities. Furthermore, a no-deal Brexit would provoke civil-disobedience from those who depend on it.
“We’re not simply talking about an economy here. We’re talking about a whole way of life that has existed for centuries and which will be put at peril in a way that it has never been put at peril before. It is a sector of the economy that has the capacity, if it feels sufficiently provoked, to carry out acts of civil disobedience” the Welsh leader warned.
The first minister spoke of a democratic issue that Johnson faces in that a no-deal Brexit was never an option on the 2016 EU referendum ballot paper and as such has no popularity in Wales as anywhere else in the UK. Moreover, the ruling Conservative party has no majority in Wales and as such its agenda is nit accepted.
During his visit, the prime minister also visited farms where Welsh farmers warned Johnson that he should prepare for mass civil unrest if he were to enact a no-deal Brexit and that such an outcome would have a “catastrophic” impact on Welsh agriculture.
There have been warnings that there will have to be a mass slaughter of lambs and other livestock in the immediate aftermath of a no-deal Brexit as 92% of lamb exports from Wales go to the EU while just 5 per cent is consumed within the UK.
“We don’t want to see a mass slaughter for welfare reasons. We want the Government to be starting to talk to public procurement markets, getting cold food storage in place so there’s no disruption going forward to capacity when those markets reopen” said Glyn Roberts, president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, to WalesOnine.
“I want him to stop playing Russian roulette with the industry which is what he appears to be doing at the moment” stated one sheep farmer on the Radio 4’s Today program, adding that “if we do go out with a no deal it will be absolutely catastrophic, even if it’s only for a few months”.
Welsh farming unions last week warned that protests would break out if the UK crashed out of the EU without an agreement and that they would campaign to stop Brexit entirely to prevent the near collapse of Welsh agriculture.
On Monday, Johnson visited Scotland and held talks with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon who told the prime minister that Scotland did not vote for Brexit and warned that Scottish independence was the only alternative to a no-deal Brexit.