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Farmers tell William and Kate a no-deal Brexit could be 'absolutely dire' for them

  • Video report by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship

On the hills above Ullswater, you have to be made of stern stuff to earn a living as a sheep farmer.

There's the Lake District weather to contend with, the early starts and the annual pressures of the lambing season.

And to add to their worries, there’s also Brexit.

The upland farmers and shepherds from the Lake District expressed their concerns over Brexit with the future King and Queen on Tuesday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge weren't in Cumbria to cut some ribbon or open a new visitor centre - as royals are perhaps best known for - but they came to sit in a farm kitchen and listen to a group of farmers tell them what it’s like working high up in the hills of Cumbria.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visiting the rural community in Cumbria. Credit: ITV News

"Is Brexit a big concern?", Prince William asks the Lake District farmers.

One replied: "I was very surprised that farmers voted for Brexit, to be honest.

"It was like turkeys voting for Christmas."

Farmers told the royal couple that the worst case scenario for farmers is a no-deal Brexit which in no uncertain terms, is "absolutely dire".

The Cambridges nodded as they were told of the 40% tariffs on sheep, a fall in exports, and an end to farming subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy.

Added to the loss of post offices and pubs and primary schools, the farmers told William and Kate that rural life can be challenging at the moment.

Adam Day, from The Farmer Network, said they were facing a perfect storm in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

He spoke of the value of their animals halving, their European export market drying up and the subsidies from the controversial Common Agricultural Policy drying up and not being replaced.

Farmers feel like they’ve been very low down on the list of priorities as politicians have tried - and failed - to find a way to leave the EU.

"Brexit is the big worry," said Jimmy Brown, "it’s just the uncertainty".

Currently, much of his lamb is exported to Germany, Spain and Italy.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Cumbria countryside with farmers. Credit: ITV News

ITV News met Jimmy's father and grandfather on their farm in Patterdale.

Grandad Chris voted to stay in the EU, while Jimmy voted to leave.

Now, however, they both share a concern about the uncertainty the Brexit process has created for them and their fellow farmers.

Jimmy’s dad Chris Brown added: "It’s always been difficult farming in the hills but we’ve always muddled through."

Kate greeted wellwishers earlier during a walkabout in Keswick town centre during a visit to Cumbria. Credit: PA

Tuesday’s visit to this rural corner of England follows several others where William and Kate have been finding out about life in the UK in 2019.

The pair met workers in Dundee facing redundancy when their tyre factory closes down.

They went into run down houses in Blackpool where people pay to rent private accommodation in appalling conditions.

And the royal couple went to Belfast to meet those trying to heal to decades-old religious and community divisions.

The Duchess of Cambridge met working dogs earlier in Keswick town centre during a visit to Cumbria. Credit: PA

Convention dictates the Royal Family must stay out of the political debate - and with the Conservative leadership campaign in full swing, William and Kate will not give their opinions or otherwise of Brexit.

But that doesn’t mean a man who will one day be King, can’t hear about the concerns of those farmers who produce more red meat than almost anywhere else in.