EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has assured the UK dairy industry he will be looking to work together ’whatever the outcome of Brexit’
There will be no winners from Brexit, but the UK and EU dairy sector must continue to work together to ‘mitigate the damage’.
That was the message from EU Commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan at this year’s Dairy UK dinner last week.
Commissioner Hogan moved to reassure the UK dairy industry he would be looking to continue to work together in a post Brexit world.
“I want to say very clearly to you that the commission will do everything in its power to retain a strong, healthy and productive relationship with the UK dairy sector, as long as I am there, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations,” he said.
He welcomed the beginning of the discussions between the UK and the EU which he said had been polite and positive. However, he still believed there would be ‘no winners’ from Brexit.
“But we have to find a way to mitigate the damage and we have to work together to do that,” he said.
“I will continue to work with all sectors of the UK agricultural industry into ensure we can help in any way we can, to adopt a common sense approach, in spite of some people in Europe and in the UK to get a practical and pragmatic solution to any of the difficulties that will emerge.”
However, he said both sides needed to keep an open mind about the solutions rather than setting out ‘red lines’ before negotiations start.
He warned leaving the customs union risked agriculture being side-lined as the UK looked to form trade agreements with the rest of the world.
“We will hope that we will continue to be good partners and people that can work together constructively in the years ahead to maintain as far as possible the circumstances that we can trade at the moment.”
He added the reality was in trade negotiations ’size matters’.
“Now, I know there was quite an effort to get a free trade deal with America in a fit of pique last year. But there was another fit of pique, which you usually have in the United States these days, where they said they wanted to do a deal with Europe first as it happens to be a bigger market.”
Commissioner Hogan and MP Simon Hoare were announced as this year’s winners of the Dairy UK Award.
Commissioner Hogan was honoured with the award ‘in recognition of his unwavering commitment to support dairy exports and ensuring the industry is of strategic importance within Europe’.
Mr Hoare notably chairs the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and is currently leading an inquiry into skills and labour in the British dairy industry. He also played an 'integral role' in the exemption of milk-based drinks from the soft drinks industry levy.
Dr David Dobbin, chairman of Dairy UK, said: “Both winners work tirelessly to promote the dairy industry from farm to fridge. It is important that we have key decision makers like Commissioner Hogan and Simon Hoare MP to ensure that the industry is protected at home and abroad.
“Commissioner Hogan’s advocacy for food and farming has made a real difference, especially for farmers.
“Additionally, Simon’s proactive leadership in the Dairy APPG has helped to ensure that the interests of the industry are centre stage.”
On receiving his award, Commissioner Hogan added: “I want to thank Dairy UK for this award - it is a real honour. As someone who grew up on a small dairy farm in Ireland, the industry has always been an important part of my life.”
Mr Hoare said: “It is a pleasure and duty to speak up for, champion and encourage our vital UK dairy industry.”