Triggering of Article 50 makes progress essential

The triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty means the need to progress on a vast range of issues is more acute than ever, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has said.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Now that Article 50 has been triggered we know there are just two years in which to deal with a huge volume of work.

“As well as pressing issues with regard to trade deals and negotiating the best possible exit options for the UK, we also need good progress in parallel in terms of reaching understanding and agreement between devolved administrations if we are to develop a home market that works for all.”

Hours after last year’s EU referendum outcome was announced, the FUW called for the Brexit process to be taken at a sensible pace, given the huge amount of planning and work the process would entail.

In February, The House of Commons Library described the Great Repeal Bill, the mechanism by which all EU-related legislation will be reviewed and transposed, as ‘potentially one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK.’

“Implementing the Great Repeal Bill is just one element of the work which needs doing over the next two years. Time is running out fast, and moving forward in terms of developing a UK framework for agriculture is just one element of that work,” said Mr Roberts.

Following consultation with members, the FUW agreed last autumn that a UK agricultural framework should be put in place ‘which prevents unfair competition between devolved regions and secures and protects adequate long term funding for agriculture, while also respecting devolved powers over agriculture and the need for flexibility within that framework which allows devolved governments to make decisions which are appropriate for their regions.’

The need to move forward in developing a framework was highlighted in a recent letter to all UK agricultural ministers.

“Such a framework must be discussed with stakeholders and agreed between devolved governments and agricultural ministers, and the wider economic, environmental and social importance of agriculture to our economies make it imperative that such discussions do not become an arena for separate political battles. We can not have an ‘England centric’ solution imposed on us by the UK Government.

“We are concerned that discussions at the highest level regarding the need for and nature of such a framework are not progressing at the appropriate rate, particularly given the very short period during which important decisions need to be made, and that’s why we are repeating our call for all the Governments to work closely and cooperatively to ensure the wellbeing of our rural communities is not compromised,” added the Union President.

In evidence recently given to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, the FUW highlighted both the need to move forward at an appropriate pace and the dangers of trying to implement a wholly new system prematurely.

“In recent years we have seen what can happen when even slight changes are made to systems and rules which affect agriculture, particularly in England and in Scotland. And the problems in England in 2005 and 2006 are well documented.

“We have to have a gradual transition to any new rules, and that means making sure there are few differences between the systems which are in place on the last day of EU membership and the first day of Brexit. A UK framework needs to be in place to achieve this.

“It is a definite case of needing more haste and less speed,” added Mr Roberts.

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