Article in Hexham Courant – December 2016

Well, that is 2016 nearly done and dusted and what a surprising year it has been. The dreadful wet winter seemed to go on for ever, benefiting neither crops nor stock. Fortunately, this eventually gave way to a moderate spring and summer, and a gloriously dry and open back end, without the droughting that affected some areas. But strangely, the politics was more interesting than the weather.

Never have I witnessed such an intense debate as that which surrounded the Brexit referendum. It seemed to invade every aspect of life, with the battle for our hearts and minds raging across the media. Whichever way you voted, the over whelming sensation on the 24th June seemed to be one of shock. “Have we really liberated ourselves from the tyranny of Brussels bureaucracy?” or “Have we really voted for the economic suicide of leaving the CAP and the free market?” depending on your point of view.

Six months on, it is disappointing that we know nothing more about the timescale for leaving, the future trading relationship with Europe nor the possible size and structure of a future UK agriculture support system. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe is getting on with debating the next CAP. At the current rate of Brexit progress, perhaps we should be paying more attention to that debate!

There is one certainty for 2017: Donald Trump will become President of the United States of America (unless it turns out that they can’t count or somebody slots him first!) Will this tidal wave of populism wash away the political elite of Europe in the upcoming elections, contributing further uncertainty across the channel?

What can we do in such uncertain times? “Not a lot” is the easy answer. But there are a few simple steps that we can take to ensure that we are best placed to face whatever is coming our way. A review of the paperwork is a good place to start.

If you are considering entering into any farming agreement longer than a year, is it flexible enough to allow both parties to adapt to one or more changes to agricultural policy and support systems? If you don’t know what is in your Partnership Agreement, how can you be sure that it is the most suitable agreement for the changes to come? Please don’t tell me that you haven’t got a written agreement!?

Then how about your Will? When was the last time that you looked at that? That is something simple that we all think about doing, but many of us don’t quite get round to, merely patting ourselves on the back for the fact that we have a Will in place. But does it still reflect our current wishes, take into account current business structures, Inheritance Tax rules and family circumstances? Without regular reviews, you could find that your greatest Christmas gift next year is to the Tax Man!

So in 2016 we said goodbye to a Prime Minister and in 2017 we will say hello to President Trump. Whatever else 2017 does bring, I hope that you can all make the most of it. Have a very Happy Christmas and a great New Year.

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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