Farming Union Highlights Concerns Over Free Trade Approach to Brexit

UK - In a major speech yesterday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May outlined some of the government's key priorities for negotiating the exit from the European Union, but UK farming organisations pointed out there was still considerable uncertainty about the future.
calendar icon 18 January 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

Ms May listed twelve priorities for Brexit, including objectives such as controlling immigration, control over British laws, protecting science and cooperating to fight crime. She also outlined that the UK would be seeking a free trade agreement with the EU, instead of remaining a member of the single market.

The National Farmers Union Council said in a statement after the speech that it has long called for clarity from government as to what the intended trading environment will be for Britain post-Brexit, as 72 per cent of agricultural exports go to the EU. However, the organisation highlighted concerns over the effects free trade agreements could have on farming.

"We hope the Prime Minister’s ambition can be achieved, but as we know these kind of deals normally take years to conclude and do not cover all products," the NFU Council stated. "If a quick and comprehensive deal cannot be achieved it would be absolutely vital that there are appropriate phased arrangements to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge to allow Britain’s farmers to adapt."

The NFU Council added that it is now seeking urgent talks with the government as to how a post-Brexit Britain could work for Britain’s food production and for detailed commitments on a suitable transition period.

Leaving the single market has been described as a 'hard Brexit' in recent weeks. Ahead of Theresa May's speech the Farmers' Union of Wales called this approach, together with the Prime Minister's recent announcement that the UK would be seeking a free trade deal with New Zealand, as a 'perfect storm' for Welsh agriculture.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The livestock producers which make up the vast majority of Welsh farmers are particularly reliant on exports to the continent, and we have made it clear since the referendum that full and unfettered access is essential to Wales.”

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