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British Farmers Plan More French-Style Tractor Protests This Weekend

Farmers unhappy at low supermarket prices and cheap food imports from post-Brexit trade deals have vowed to renew their French-style protests with tractors this weekend.



Demonstrations modelled on those across the Channel in recent months have sprung up in the UK, most notably in Wales and southern England. On Thursday, Andrew Gibson, a farmer in Kent who has been centrally involved in organising previous actions, said more were to come.


“We are definitely taking some action this weekend and we are calling on others to try to join us and to do their own thing as well. It needs to be a national effort because it’s not all about us; it’s about the industry as a whole,” said Gibson.


Last Friday night, he and his brother organised farmers for a go-slow protest that caused traffic jams around the Port of Dover.


Activists in several parts of Wales have held a series of protests, including parking tractors outside the constituency office of the rural affairs minister, Lesley Griffiths, and blaring their horns, according to a Farmers Weekly report.


Gibson said the next protest in Kent would “hopefully be bigger numbers and it will be tractors, and we will be trying to get better messaging out about what we are trying to achieve”.


“The whole industry is on its knees, to be honest,” he said. “The dairy boys, the arable boys, the whole industry. We are just getting clobbered by the supermarkets, by the government, by post-Brexit trade deals, by imports of cheap rubbish. We are getting it from everywhere.”


He and other activists have addressed the British public at large, saying: “We, as farmers, take great pride in growing your food. We are so proud to produce the safest and best quality food in the world.


“We understand that many of you already actively choose to buy British, and we thank you for that. We also understand that, for many feeling the cost of living crisis, buying British is not always easy. Cheaper imported food gives you the chance to feed your family for less.


“What we ask is that you consider why it is cheaper. How can food from the other side of the world be cheaper? What chemicals are being used that are banned in the UK?”


Their protests are inspired by those in France. Last month, farmers used tractors to stop traffic on eight main motorways into Paris in a row over regulations, pay and taxes. The protests have been taking place for months, starting with some young farmers turning town and village road signs upside down, and escalating in recent weeks into large-scale action.


Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, said: “We share European farmers’ concerns and frustration. Years of unsustainably high production costs and crop losses because of extreme weather are putting farming families under mounting pressure.


“But the British public have demonstrated invaluable support. In 2020, more than a million people signed the NFU’s petition to safeguard British food and farming standards which led to greater government scrutiny over trade deals. And, in 2023, nearly 50,000 signatures led to the prime minister hosting a food security summit.


" We do not take this support or its influence for granted, and it’s why protests or blockading public roads should always be a last resort.”

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