To mark the first anniversary of the EU Referendum, Farmers Guardian has asked a number of key figures from the NFU to explain how things have changed for the industry and individual sectors over the past 12 months.
NFU President Meurig Raymond kicks off our week-long mini-series with an overview of the current situation.
Despite all the political upheaval in the 12 months since the EU referendum, we are still hardly any closer to knowing what future Brexit holds for us in terms of our future trading relationship with the EU; how a future immigration system in the UK will work; how we can create a better regulatory system under which farming will operate; and how public policy will support agriculture in future in mitigating volatility, improving productivity and delivering environmental goods once we are no longer subject to the CAP.
Agriculture is the sector that has the potential to be the most affected by Brexit, so we need to see the Government working with UK farming unions, the food chain and the farm supply chain.
The NFU has engaged extensively as part of our Brexit work, both with government and with industry and interest groups within and beyond agriculture, and we will continue to do this.
I have already met with both Michael Gove and George Eustice to discuss the critical issues which farming businesses face and also opportunities for the sector post-Brexit.
The NFU will be the first organisation to hold an event at the House of Commons following the election to make the case for a Brexit deal which ensures a productive, progressive and profitable future for British farmers.
The most pressing issue will be what sort of relationship we will have with the EU in future. I believe farming’s interest is best served by a Brexit which maintains the UK’s strong economic links with the EU, centred on tariff-free trade with minimal non-tariff barriers between the UK and EU.
Given the incredibly short time-frame – the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier wants a deal to take to the EU Parliament by October 2018 – transitional arrangements will be crucial to ensure stability and continuity at the point of Brexit.
This includes a system of customs controls which allow goods to flow freely between the UK and EU, perhaps through continued membership of the Customs Union, and immigration arrangements that ensure farming does not find itself unable to access the workforce it needs.
All of this will be critical if farming is to continue to deliver the things the British public truly value – a safe, affordable and trusted supply of food, the upkeep of our treasured countryside, and strong local economies alongside a food sector that generates £108bn in value nationally.
It is now time for the waiting to end. Brexit presents one of the biggest challenges our nation has faced in a generation or more. But done properly – with government taking a consensual and collaborative approach, working with the NFU and others in the farming sector – it can deliver a bright future that allows farming to continue to deliver a vital service for the British people.