With the EU’s guidelines for Brexit talks finally published and plans for the Government’s Great Repeal Bill underway, Abi Kay explores what farming groups are asking for as the departure process begins.
All the major farming unions have called for transitional arrangements to prevent a cliff edge on the day the UK leaves the EU.
Last month, NFU director of strategy Martin Haworth told a Euractiv event: “We need the comfort of knowing we have a reasonable transition agreement like when we joined the EU.
“After 43 years, it is going to take longer to exit than it did to enter.”
In Wales, NFU Cymru president Stephen James welcomed the Rural Affairs Committee’s call for a transition period, and the Farmers’ Union of Wales demanded farmers be given at least 10 years to adjust to new policies.
Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn said some transition will be needed and any attempt to curtail the two-year negotiations without a settlement with the EU would leave the UK facing a cliff edge.
Tomas Pietrangeli, managing director of Arla Foods UK, called on the Government to give assurances transitional arrangements would be tariff- and barrier-free.
He warned the British dairy industry would be undermined by restrictions on free trade.
In a joint statement after Article 50 was triggered, presidents of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said the UK Government must establish a well-funded agricultural policy which allowed for some flexibility across devolved nations.
The statement said: “Ministers must avoid an abrupt cliff edge for farmers following the exit from the EU. So it is vital Governments across the UK co-operate to ensure a funding transition from current CAP to policies best suited to circumstances of different parts of the UK. In doing so, each administration must avoid disruptive differences across the UK and between sectors.”
* Click HERE for more information on how farmers should be preparing for post-Brexit subsidy changes
Union chiefs have called for ‘full, unfettered’ access to the single market.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “We want full unfettered access to the single market. Our consultation was clear that members wanted a new bespoke deal with the EU.
“Trading tariff-free has been hugely beneficial to both the UK and the EU, as 38 per cent of British lamb ends up on the EU market.”
Giving evidence to a House of Lords Committee, NFUS chief executive officer Scott Walker said other markets across the world offered opportunities, but they must not come at the expense of our trading arrangement with the EU.
* Click HERE for more on how the lamb markets reacted to Article 50 being triggered.
After Article 50 was officially triggered, the National Pig Association called for welfare standards to be maintained as the UK pursued new trade deals.
It said equivalent standards should be met for meat imports and, if necessary, tariffs and quotas introduced where standards fall short.
In the wake of the Brazilian rotten meat scandal, the NFU and NFU Cymru both said trade agreements must protect standards adhered to by British farmers.
As the Government published plans for its Great Repeal Bill, the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFUS and UFU joined forces to call for a better regulatory framework post-Brexit.
NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “It is clear the intention of the Great Repeal Bill is to replicate EU law intact and unchanged as far as practicable, and to make changes only to ensure laws remain operable.
“We hope this is not a missed opportunity and the Government will, as a matter of priority, look at ways to ensure agriculture operates under an efficient and streamlined regulatory system.”
TFA chief executive George Dunn said there had been some ‘hyperbole’ over immigration, but it was becoming clear the farming and food processing industries are reliant upon EU migrant labour.
Quality Meat Scotland highlighted the ‘significant dependence’ on migrant labour in Scottish abattoirs.
Fifty two per cent of unskilled workers, 44 per cent of skilled workers and 16 per cent of supervisory workers were non-UK nationals, according to a survey of members of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers.