The Conservatives have won the General Election, with a predicted majority of 78 and just two seats left to declare.
As the news broke, farm groups urged the new Government not to allow the UK to leave the EU without a trade deal in place and to ‘make good’ on promises not to compromise standards after Brexit.
The Tories routed Labour in its traditional heartlands, winning seats such as Redcar and Bolsover.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already said he will not lead the party through another General Election campaign, but has promised to stay on to manage a ‘period of reflection’ on the result.
The Liberal Democrats also had a disappointing night, with leader Jo Swinson narrowly losing her Dunbartonshire East seat to the SNP.
She also failed to make any of the gains predicted at the start of the campaign, winning just 12 seats.
In Scotland, the SNP won 47 of the 59 seats up for grabs, but the Scottish Conservatives held on to key target seats such as Gordon and Dumfries and Galloway.
The Tories also performed well in Wales, winning traditional Labour seats such as Bridgend, but Plaid Cymru held on to its four constituencies.
Vicki Hird, sustainable farming co-ordinator for UK food and farming alliance Sustain, told Farmers Guardian the new Conservative Government must now honour its promises not to compromise the UK’s environmental, animal welfare and food standards in trade negotiations.
“We look forward to seeing the legislation which unequivocally does that,” she said.
Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts called on the Government to use the coming months to deliver an EU trade deal which secures unfettered access to EU markets and does not introduce unfair competition from farmers in other countries.
“We also need to see long-term funding commitments for our industry and an urgent review of the bargain basement tariffs laid out in the Import Tariff Reduction Bill, which make a laughing stock of our trade negotiating hand,” he added.
John Davies, NFU Cymru president, echoed Mr Roberts’ thoughts on negotiating an EU trade deal, warning leaving the bloc next month would not mean Brexit had been ‘done’.
“Leaving the EU at the end of January on the basis of the current withdrawal agreement means we enter a transition period, during which time the Government begins the highly complex, and time consuming, process of thrashing out the fine details of our future trading relationship with the EU27,” he said.
“The Government must make absolutely sure we avoid a situation whereby the transition period elapses without reaching an agreement, and we end up trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms.”
NFU Scotland’s political affairs manager Clare Slipper said the union hoped the decisive outcome would signal progress and a clear direction from the new UK Government, after two years of political stagnation.
She pointed to evidence from NFUS surveys which showed ‘dither and delay’ had stifled confidence in the Scottish agricultural sector, and called on the new Government to take early steps to give certainty to farmers and crofters, who are facing the fourth Brexit cliff-edge in 12 months on January 31 2020.
“Our members can be reassured that their union will be making tracks to Westminster at the earliest opportunity to engage with this new Parliament,” she added.
CLA president Mark Bridgeman also welcomed the certainty the Conservative victory brings, but warned Brexit was only just beginning.
“Never forget the extent to which European agriculture needs a deal with the UK,” he said.
“The EU runs a £20bn agriculture trade surplus with the UK, and a traded goods surplus of almost £100bn. The idea that the EU can shrug off a dramatically reduced trade relationship with the UK is naïve.
“With a stable government in place, at least the Prime Minister can negotiate with a greater degree of strength than before the election.
“But Government needs to earn the trust of rural communities by guaranteeing UK farmers will not be undercut by cheap imports produced to lower standards.”