Yield stability is a major problem in oilseed rape with inter-annual variation accounting for between 30–50% of the crop value among the major global rapeseed producers. The United Kingdom has persistent problems with yield instability, but the underlying causes remain unclear. We tested whether temperature plays a role in UK winter oilseed rape (WOSR) yield variation through analysis of aggregated country-wide on-farm yield data and in annual Recommended List variety trial data run by the UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Our analyses of the two independent datasets both show that mean temperature in early winter is strongly and uniquely linked to variation in WOSR yield, with a rise in mean temperature of 1 °C associated with an average reduction of 113 (+−21) kg ha−1 in yield. We propose that understanding the mechanism by which early winter chilling affects WOSR yield will enable the breeding of varieties with a more stable and resilient yield in Western Europe as climatic variation increases.