Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said preparations would begin for a second independence referendum in Scotland, following the UK’s decision to exit the European Union.
Farmers attending the second day of the Highland Show expressed mixed reactions on hearing the news.
Beef and sheep producer Fiona Wight said: "Shocked, stunned and a bit scared this morning."
Retired local councillor Colin Brown added: "I think this is something we have to face head on, as a British United Kingdom. If we are going to improve the United Kingdom it has to be done collectively."
Liberal Democrat leader and Cumbrian MP Tim Farron said he feared calling another Scottish independence referendum would only ’add to the chaos’.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy Minister Martin McGuinness also called for a border poll on a united Ireland this morning. As the region shares a border with the Republic of Ireland it is not yet known how the relationship between the two countries will be affected.
Speaking to the national Irish broadcaster RTE, Mr McGuinness said the British Government had a ’democratic imperative’ to call a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should leave the United Kingdom and unite with the Irish Republic.
Speaking from The Highland Show, NFU Scotland’s president Allan Bowie said the Brexit result marked a period of ’great uncertainty’ for the country’s farmers and crofters.
“The vote for the UK to leave the European Union brings few certainties as to what will happen in the weeks and months ahead but an intense period of negotiation will begin and a negotiated exit from the EU is expected to take a minimum of two years," he said.
"There is a need for these discussions to commence quickly so that the many businesses who benefit from support from the CAP and value the markets we have established for our produce in Europe and further afield can plan for the future. Significant sectors of our industry are also very reliant on a workforce sourced from other parts of the EU and we need to establish any implications for their businesses.
“What will be key for Scottish agriculture will be delivery on the commitments made in the campaign about support levels for agriculture in the event of a Brexit vote and to seek reassurances on terms of trade with rest of Europe and worldwide in the future.
“With the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron announced this morning, the political implications of the vote are huge. The political landscape across the UK is now in a period of flux and speculation is likely to be unhelpful.
“What is clear, is that there was strong support to remain in the EU across every part of Scotland and that was in stark contrast to the majority of the UK."
It came as the First Minister said she would seek ways to keep Scotland in the EU, adding the prospect of a second independence referendum was ’highly likely’.
Mr Bowie added: "There is considerable debate already as to what the EU referendum means with regards to any potential future vote on Scottish independence. It is also apparent that the UK vote to leave has wider ramifications for the future structure of the EU.
“We need to avoid knee-jerk reactions at this time. There has been a seismic shift in our political landscape in the last 24 hours and we need a period of stability – not least to allow our financial markets and economy to stabilise - before further major decisions should be made.”
In Wales, which voted to leave the EU, both farming unions urged the industry to set aside differences expressed during the campaign and work constructively towards delivering an environment that allowed Welsh farmers to carve out the best possible future.
NFU Cymru president, Stephen James said: “The vote means we have two years to agree the terms of our departure and for the time being Welsh farmers will continue to receive CAP support and have access to EU markets.
“Beyond this we are entering a period of considerable uncertainty as our politicians hammer out the terms of withdrawal.
“At the forefront of most farmers’ minds will be the twin questions of what level of access we will enjoy to the European markets and what level of support farmers in Wales might receive once the withdrawal process is complete.
“We must ensure we have the best possible access to Europe’s markets and an agricultural policy that guarantees parity of treatment with the rest of Europe.
“If farm businesses are to plan for the future then they need to know the answers to these questions sooner rather than later.”
Farmers Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts added the union was a supporter of Remain and was disappointed with the outcome.
“However, as a democratic organisation we fully respect the outcome and work must now start to build a positive future for farming and the rural economy of Wales outside the EU.
“There is a monumental amount of work to do in terms of changing domestic arrangements and legislation, including in terms of Welsh devolved legislation, not to mention unravelling us from the EU budget to which we were previously committed, negotiating trade deals and dealing with issues such as border controls.
IFA president Joe Healy, while expressing disappointment at the outcome of the referendum, emphasised the need for the Irish Government to ’immediately take decisive steps to allay the concerns in farming and the agri-food sector about the implications of this vote’.
He said: “The outcome of the UK vote has major implications for Irish agriculture and the agri-food sector. The Government must give a clear signal that the issues of major importance to this sector, our trading relationship with the UK and Northern Ireland and and the EU budget, will be central to the EU-UK negotiations. Minimising uncertainty and setting out a clear strategy on the next steps is a priority.”
Ulster Farmers Union president Barclay Bell said farmers and the wider rural community should not panic about an immediate end to CAP support measures or changes in trade arrangements with the EU market particularly with the Republic of Ireland, since it will be a negotiated rather than an overnight departure from the EU.
“We don’t want farmers to panic. CAP support is guaranteed to 2019. We will immediately enter into discussions on future support arrangements, funded by the UK Treasury, and also on the continuation of trade with Europe. We also have a UK farm unions’ team in Brussels that will work closely with the European Commission and UK government as the UK makes the transition to exit the EU,” said Mr Bell.