Recently Donald Trump spoke about his first phone call with Boris Johnson after Johnson became prime minister. His comments included this fascinating aside.
We don’t do the kind of trade we could do with – what some people say is Great Britain, and some people remember – a word you don’t hear too much is England, which is a piece of it.
It would be easy to put this down to simple US confusion about the name of the country that Johnson presides over (understandable confusion – it is not straightforward). But with Brexit posing perhaps the biggest threat to the preservation of the union of the United Kingdom for a century, perhaps Trump was being more prescient than he realised. It is not entirely impossible that, within a generation, England might be all that is left.
In Northern Ireland the prospect of a no deal Brexit is making Irish reunification look more palatable to some than it has done for years, and Theresa May was so alarmed by this that she eventually concluded a no deal Brexit would be unacceptable. In Scotland the SNP believes that the combination of Brexit and a Johnson premiership could make a second independence referendum easier to win than the last one. Wales is a different prospect; unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, it voted leave along with England. And in Wales even the nationalists are wary of independence – Plaid Cymru is more of a home rule party, with independence only a long-term goal. But even in Wales opinion is shifting. Recently the Labour first minister, Mark Drakeford, said that Wales’s support for the union was not unconditional, and only yesterday an opinion poll put Plaid Cymru ahead in voting intention for the Welsh assembly for the first time ever.
After his visit to Scotland yesterday, Johnson, who has given himself the title “minister for the union” alongside the title prime minister, is in Wales, and, according to a statement released by Number 10 overnight, he will tell Welsh farmers they have a bright future after Brexit. He will say:
I will always back Britain’s great farmers and as we leave the EU we need to make sure that Brexit works for them.
That means scrapping the common agricultural policy and signing new trade deals – our amazing food and farming sector will be ready and waiting to continue selling ever more not just here but around the world.
Once we leave the EU on 31 October, we will have a historic opportunity to introduce new schemes to support farming– and we will make sure that farmers gets a better deal.
Brexit presents enormous opportunities for our country and it’s time we looked to the future with pride and optimism.
But not everyone is convinced. On the Today programme this morning Helen Roberts, a sheep farmer in Wales and a regional development officer for the National Sheep Association, said a no deal Brexit could lead to farmers in Wales blocking roads in protest. Echoing a comment made by the Farmers Union of Wales, which recently warned that a no deal Brexit could lead to “civil unrest” in the principality, Roberts said a no deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for sheep farmers. She explained:
At home we have got a flock of 450 ewes. We’ve just started selling the lambs off them for this year. Come the end of October, that’s when we will still be selling them. And to not have a market [because no deal would lead to the imposition of high tariffs by the EU] to sell them into just means there would be no future.
Asked if she thought farmers would really take the fight onto the streets in the event of a no deal Brexit, Roberts replied:
I think they will. I think it is time to stand up for ourselves and be counted. We produce the most wonderful product and we need to be able to sell it and continue farming and looking after the land, like we do best.
Asked what she meant, and whether she was talking about the possibility of farmers blocking roads with tractors, Roberts said she would expect something like that in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Johnson is in Wales this afternoon. And Jeremy Corbyn is also on a visit today. He is due to meet anti-fracking protesters at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. Otherwise the diary is fairly empty.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary when I wrap up.
You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.
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