Brexit Vote: Farming Industry Reaction

UK - The votes have been counted, and the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Here we will have all the reaction from food and farming organisations in the UK and beyond.
calendar icon 24 June 2016
clock icon 6 minute read

Farming unions call for early commitment to British farming

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) President Meurig Raymond said that the organisation would campaign for the best possible access to markets in the EU and further afield, whilst ensuring that the UK is protected from imports that are produced to lower standards.

Mr Raymond said: “The vote to leave the European Union will inevitably lead to a period of uncertainty in a number of areas that are of vital importance to Britain’s farmers.

“The NFU will engage fully and constructively with the British government to construct new arrangements. This needs to happen as soon as possible.

“We understand that the negotiations will take some time to deliver but it is vital that there is early commitment to ensure British farming is not disadvantaged.”

He said the organisation would also campaign for adequate access to seasonal and full-time labour for the industry, a British agricultural policy that meets UK needs whilst ensuring "parity of treatment with European farmers", and proportionate and science-based regulation and product approvals.

Head of the NFU’s Welsh branch, NFU Cymru, Stephen James said: “Negotiating and concluding trade agreements with the European Union and the rest of the world, for our exports, now becomes vital.

“Wales is particularly reliant on export markets and we will be looking to the UK Government to prioritise the negotiation of favourable trade agreements. Whilst doing so I would stress that it is essential that decision makers do not undermine domestic agriculture by opening the UK market to goods which do not meet our own high standards of production.”

Northern Ireland’s Ulster Farmers’ Union President, Barclay Bell, said farmers and the wider rural community should not panic about an immediate end to CAP support measures or changes in trade arrangements with the EU market, particularly with the Republic of Ireland, since it will be a negotiated rather than an overnight departure from the EU.

NFU Scotland’s President Allan Bowie stressed that speculation on the future is likely to be unhelpful at the moment.

“What is clear, is that there was strong support to remain in the EU across every part of Scotland and that was in stark contrast to the majority of the UK.

“There is considerable debate already as to what the EU referendum means with regards to any potential future vote on Scottish independence. It is also apparent that the UK vote to leave has wider ramifications for the future structure of the EU.

“We need to avoid knee-jerk reactions at this time.”

Vets to work to preserve high animal health, welfare standards

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association both emphasised the importance of animal welfare in the forthcoming negotiations, now the UK has voted to leave.

BVA President Sean Wensley said: "The UK's decision to leave the European Union will have a significant impact on matters of interest to the veterinary profession, particularly in relation to regulation, education, and workforce planning, but also in terms of animal welfare, research, surveillance, and animal movements.”

He added that the BVA would continue to work with international partners to engage on cross border issues such as disease surveillance, veterinary medicines and antimicrobial resistance.

The RVCS said it would work with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to minimise the disruption.

International reaction

Heads of the EU’s main bodies this morning said they regretted the UK’s decision but would respect the outcome.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Council President Donald Tusk and Holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU Mark Rutte gave a statement this morning in Brussels together with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Until this process of negotiations is over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this,” they said. “Any agreement, which will be concluded with the United Kingdom as a third country, will have to reflect the interests of both sides and be balanced in terms of rights and obligations.”

EU-wide farming organisation Copa & Cogeca said the vote marks a sad day for EU and UK farmers alike, and said it would work to ensure the farming community does not pay the price for international politics.

Copa & Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said: “We are still analysing the impact on agriculture of the vote, based on both EU institutions and UK government decisions.

“But a key point for us will be to avoid any further disruption to the European agriculture market, given the importance of the economic ties across the Channel and the current agricultural market crisis. It's crucial to maintain market stability.

“Over half of UK food and drink exports currently go to the EU and the UK market is also a big export market for food and drink exports from other Member States providing European consumers with a good, diverse choice of quality produce.”

The President of the German Farmers Association (DBV) expressed concern after the vote, marking the UK as an important trading partner for agri-food products.

“German farming families view the British vote for Brexit with utmost concern for the stability and unity power of the community,” he said.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) President Joe Healy, while expressing disappointment at the outcome of the UK referendum, emphasised the need for the Irish Government to immediately take decisive steps to allay the concerns in farming and the agri-food sector about the implications of this vote.

New Zealand’s Federated Farmers organisation urged the country’s government to move quickly in pressing New Zealand’s interests in new negotiations with the UK, highlighting lamb in particular.

President Dr William Rolleston said: “Britain leaving the EU will create a considerable degree of political and financial uncertainty but we must consider what new opportunities might be won. This could be a great opportunity to work with lamb producers in the UK to get better outcomes for both countries.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the country’s Meat Industry Association highlighted the large quotas of red meat that New Zealand exports to the EU and UK, saying it is unclear how much of these quotas the UK will now take on. The UK currently takes half of New Zealand’s sheepmeat quota in the EU.

"Under WTO rules, New Zealand expects that our overall levels of sheep and beef access to both the EU and UK will remain the same," said Sam McIvor, CEO of Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

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