Call for Brexit to allow farmers in North sell into rest of UK
Ulster Farmer’s Union says UK will remain main market for Ulster farmers
There is daily cross-Border movement of milk on a massive scale and 500,000 northern lambs are sent south for processing.
It is “absolutely essential” the Brexit deal allows Northern Ireland to continue to sell food into the rest of the UK without any additional controls, the head of the Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU) has said.
UFU president, Barclay Bell said the UK will remain the main market for Ulster farmers.
“We are in a time of unprecedented change which represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of Northern Ireland agriculture and ensure the future UK domestic agricultural policy is operationally and strategically right for Northern Ireland’s farming industry,” he said.
He also said the UFU had stressed the importance of finding a solution that allows the long-standing trade relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to continue with minimal disruption.
“These are relationships that affect all of agriculture, and which have been in place since long before the UK and Ireland joined the then EEC,” he said.
Ultimately, our aim is to ensure politicians in Northern Ireland, and at Westminster, prioritise agriculture in the negotiations and deliver on their Brexit promises.”
The UFU, which represents over 11,500 farmers and growers in the North, did not take a Remain or Leave position ahead of the EU referendum but did warn without financial support food prices would rise.
At present, about 87 per cent of farmers’ incomes comes from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The Conservative government has pledged to keep overall farm subsidies at their current levels until 2022.
Sheep farmer Campbell Tweed, a former UFU president and former chairman of the National Sheep Association, who voted Remain and describes himself as “a very liberal Protestant” who doesn’t identify with any political party, said he and the other sheep farmers he speaks to are concerned about how Brexit will work out.
He assesses that many Leave-voting farmers believed Brexit would mean more subsidies and less regulation, but says there is no evidence for what people chose to believe.
“People were voting without any evidence, there were many naive and misleading statements made during the referendum and very often people were using their imagination as to what the outcome would be as a consequence of a Brexit vote.
“I think most farmers would be happy with a pragmatic solution to it that would allow us to go north, south, east, west if that is possible.
“Overall, there wouldn’t be many farmers hung up on political dogma, they want to get on with farming.”
Agriculture commentator Richard Halleron said the implications of putting any sort of hard border in place are going to be “pretty heavy for the food industry, the agri-food sector north and south”.
“The DUP have made it perfectly clear they are gung-ho for Brexit and that would include coming out of the customs union and single market,” he said.
“There are trade implications for production and agricultural by virtue of the fact we have an Irish border.
“Essentially what we have seen over the last 10 years has been a movement towards an integrated farming and food industry across the island of Ireland.”
Many beef processors have a presence on both sides of the Border. There is daily cross-Border movement of milk on a massive scale and 500,000 Northern lambs are sent south for processing.
“A hard border, a hard Brexit, calling it whatever you want is going to do tremendous damage to that trade,” he said.
“And looking at livestock coming north, hundreds of thousands of pigs born and reared on farms in Republic of Ireland are brought north for processing.”