The next six weeks provides a uniquely important time for farming’s voice to be heard during what could be the most pivotal election campaign for decades. That’s the view of the UK’s farming and landowning organisations ahead of what’s being dubbed the ‘Brexit’ General election on 8 June.
The Farming Brexit Roundtable, chaired by NFU Deputy President Minette Batters, has been set up to share concerns and to promote collective action before the nation goes to the polls. Meeting for the first time last week, the organisations urged political parties to recognise the importance of agriculture to the economy and the country as a whole. They also concluded that political parties must set out clear policies that work for farm businesses, giving the industry certainty during the Brexit negotiations, but also well beyond the point at which the UK leaves the European Union.
A joint statement said: “Our organisations welcome the commitment to honour EU payments until 2020, but farming is a long term business. Frankly, the value of the assurance, given in August 2016, diminishes with each passing day. Farm businesses need to know the long term plans of our political parties over the next decade, not just the next two years. So we urge all parties to make their plans clear in their respective manifestos to give farmers the stability required to instill confidence for the future.
“We also considered the trading relationship in which farming will find itself post-Brexit. It’s clear that there is a pressing need to secure continuing access to the European Union marketplace as a priority. The vast majority of food exports are to the EU, lamb and cereals being good examples. So every sector needs there to be free and frictionless trade with the EU to thrive long term, or face economic calamity of over-supplied domestic markets. Whatever the final outcome of the General Election, the next Government must secure a phased transition to the new trading agreements.”
The Farming Brexit Roundtable will continue to meet regularly during the course of the Brexit negotiations. The organisations in attendance at the meeting, held in London on 19 April, were:
Country Land and Business Association
British Poultry Council
National Beef Association
National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs
National Pig Association
Royal Association British Dairy Farmers
Scottish Land and Estates
Tenant Farmers Association