Ulster farming leaders say the UK Government’s latest Brexit proposals are a ‘useful starting point for further negotiations’ but do not address industry concerns, particularly around tariffs and customs.
While accepting that the UK will leave the EU, Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Ivor Ferguson said the process must still be orderly and well managed.
“We have consistently said that any deal must allow free and frictionless trade to continue north/south and east/west and that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Northern Ireland’s family-run farming businesses.
“The proposed all-island regulatory zone would help facilitate these crucial trading relationships. However, more clarity is needed about how the four-year Stormont consent process would work as this rule has the potential to put the industry in a prolonged cycle of uncertainty.
“Equally important is a commitment from the government to protect our standing in the UK’s internal market. We need concrete guarantees that access to the UK market will not be affected.”
The UFU further warned of the dangers if customs and tariff barriers add costs and undermine Northern Ireland’s competitive position.
“From 2021, WTO rules and tariffs will apply for all exports from NI unless the UK has a Free Trade Agreement in place,” said Mr Ferguson (pictured above). “This does not give the certainty around tariff free access that we require. It is essential for the livelihood of family-run farming businesses that this is confirmed.”
The UFU also said it is not yet convinced that the plans on the table, especially in terms of tariffs and customs, represent a workable solution for agriculture and food.
“We want to see concrete evidence that would reassure us about the impact on farm businesses and farm families,” said the president. “That reassurance is not yet there in these proposals, but we are hopeful that they are only a starting point in the negotiation.”