JUST ahead of the lambing period, discussions are in place between the government and industry representatives on the protections being put in place should Brexit result in a collapse of the UK’s sheep market.

Two meetings were held last week between the National Sheep Association (NSA), the UK Livestock Brexit Group and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to discuss the effects of a no-deal or hard Brexit, and what DEFRA could do to support farmers through this turbulent time.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker, who was in attendance of the meetings, said there was “absolutely not enough fat on our industry” to expect it to navigate through a collapse alone.

“The threat is still that we temporarily lose our entire access to the EU market,” he said.

“We would regain that access, but with tariffs that would make trade unviable.

“This could then result in a flood of lamb on to our domestic market that would result in price crashes. The effect of this on farm livelihoods, mental health, and animal welfare could be catastrophic.”

DEFRA minister George Eustice expressed his support for sheep farmers at the meeting stating that there was no desire or intent to restructure the industry.

The meetings were described by Mr Stocker as a breakthrough, as the government confirmed it intended to provide financial support in the case of market difficulties.

He said: “This support gives us confidence that we can enter this lambing period with a greater level of assurance than was previously the case.”