With Brexit negotiations now effectively on hold as result of the coronavirus outbreak, NFU director of EU exit and international trade Nick Von Westenholz has warned the transition period must be extended.
Despite the cancellation of face-to-face negotiations to agree an UK-EU trade deal, it was rumoured the two sides could replicate this set-up using video-conferencing but the pandemic has brought all talks to a stand still.
Taking to Twitter, Mr Westenholz criticised the Prime Minister’s response when asked about a possible extension to the transition period (March 17), as he claimed it was ‘something [which is not] being discussed in Downing Street’.
This isn’t a joke. Organisations like NFU would love to focus as much energy and resource as possible on ensuring nation is well and properly fed during the crisis. But this is a clear message to keep working on huge challenges of Brexit instead at the same time. Sensible? t.co/lMqRpYgoep— Nick von Westenholz (@nvonwestenholz)
This isn't a joke. Organisations like NFU would love to focus as much energy and resource as possible on ensuring nation is well and properly fed during the crisis. But this is a clear message to keep working on huge challenges of Brexit instead at the same time. Sensible? https://t.co/lMqRpYgoep— Nick von Westenholz (@nvonwestenholz) March 19, 2020
British farmers are ‘rightly’ concerned about our agreement with the EU, Mr Westenholz explained, as about 60 per cent of all exports are sent to the EU.
He urged: “It is therefore a big concern the Government is not talking about a delay, as leaving the EU without a negotiated deal will have an economic hit and runs the risk of exacerbating the situation we currently face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Mr Westenholz claimed any ‘prudent’ Government would need to take stock and reformulate its position around a future trading relationship to manage and facilitate a delay.
He added: “If we get over the peak of the virus within three months as the Prime Minister suggested, this will still push progress back far into the summer months and beyond, which cause will cause major disruption.
“We are storing up more problems by not delaying.”