The sight of Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker shaking hands on a deal which allows the Brexit talks to move on to discussions about trade next month was broadly welcomed by the industry today.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 this morning Environment Secretary said: “I am hopeful, optimistic and confidecant now that…. we will be in a position where we can secure a comprehensive and deep free-trade agreement that will mean citizens within the UK and the EU will be able to sell each other goods and services in a frictionless way.
“There will be bumps in the road. But we start in a position where we are in alignment with the EU, so there should be a model for one of the fullest and most comprehensive free-trade agreements ever signed.”
Mr Gove added that there would be a two-year transition period in which to “iron out the details”.
“Outside the EU, we can also enter free-trade deals with other countries, and we can do other things like improve animal welfare and devise an agricultural policy that actually rewards enhancing the environment, rather than simply paying people, as in the past, on the basis of how rich they already are.”
NFU Scotland issued a statement saying: NFU Scotland has welcomed the progress made on Brexit negotiations today (8 December) and urges the UK and the EU to use this as a launchpad to drive forward trade talks.
With today’s announcement, a welcome line has been drawn under the speculation around ‘no deal’ scenarios and the Union urges rapid progress on trade.
While securing a deal with Europe will be essential for Scotland’s farmers and crofters, the Union also wrote this week to Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox requesting a meeting to discuss any future international trading arrangements out with the EU and what they may mean for Scottish food and farming.
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “The Brexit process to date has starved our industry of much-needed confidence and certainty on its direction. With the clock ticking towards March 2019, the conclusion of this phase is to be welcomed.
“It is the green light for NFUS to intensify its pressure on governments, to secure the best trade, labour and support outcomes for Scottish agriculture and the food and drinks sectors we underpin, by stepping up our lobbying activity. That will see us in Westminster again next week. The leadership and foresight of the Union must be matched by political leaders and governments.
“NFU Scotland has been crystal clear in its priorities for future trading arrangements and we mapped these out in our recent submission to the Trade Bill White Paper.
“Our preference is for the UK to remain in the EU Single Market and Customs Union, but we understand that the UK Government will seek to devise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU. The FTA must allow unfettered and barrier-free access to EU markets.
“As well as barrier and tariff-free trade, Scotland needs the freedom to set our own appropriate rules for farming. It is essential that whatever future trade deal is found for farming, food and drink, it is bespoke to the Scottish and UK situation. NFUS therefore welcomes the strategic objectives as set out in the white paper, which seek to ensure that UK/EU trade remains as frictionless as possible, and note today’s commitment to avoid a ‘hard border’ between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“It is possible that interim measures may have to be put in place before an FTA is implemented. NFUS and the other UK farming unions have made clear their wish that, at the very least, the UK should stay within the Customs Union during the transition period to new trade agreements.
Dairy UK said it looked forward to the start of trade discussions which will be crucial in ensuring that the UK dairy industry can thrive in a post-Brexit era.
Dairy UK said the joint agreement on the rights of EU and UK citizens residing in the UK and in other member states and a framework for ensuring there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were ‘vitally important steps in the right direction’.
Commenting on this morning’s announcement, Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK said: “We are very pleased that progress has been made on these important issues, so that the all-important talks on trade can begin. We have continued to stress how important ensuring there remains no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to the dairy industry supply chain, which requires the transportation of raw milk and other products across the border without tariff or administrative barriers. We also welcome the commitment to protect the East-West border, as it is crucial there remains regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and Great Britain so trade can continue freely within the UK. This is important for a number of reasons, including avoiding an undue burden of regulation for businesses within the UK, and because dairy and meat from NI make an important contribution to food on shelf in GB.
“The dairy industry in the UK also relies on continuous access to labour. The progress on the rights of EU citizens is very welcome but there is a great deal more work to be done in this area to ensure that our industry can move into the post-Brexit era with confidence.
“The UK dairy industry is strategically important for the nation. What we need now is greater detail and clarity on our future relationship with the EU in the transition period and beyond, so that the dairy industry has both certainty and stability in which to do business. We are ready and willing to continue providing information on Brexit and trade to Government, to ensure we achieve the optimum outcome for the dairy industry.