This morning Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election for June 8, claiming the country had come together after the vote to leave the EU but Parliament had not.
She will rely on Labour and SNP MPs to give her the two-thirds majority she needs in the House of Commons to by-pass the Fixed Term Parliament Act.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have given their backing to an early election.
CLA director general Helen Woolley said: “In light of the Prime Minister’s decision to call a general election, we welcome the opportunity to get out and engage with candidates about the future of the countryside and ensure the rural voice is heard.
“The CLA will work throughout the campaign to ensure MPs understand the future of the rural economy must be a national priority through Brexit and beyond.”
NFU vice president Guy Smith told Farmers Guardian the general election would be an ‘extra challenge’ on an already noisy political scene.
“Clearly the farming voice will need to raise its game even more to make sure it is heard”, he added.
The union responded officially to the news on Twitter by tweeting it would work to ‘make farming’s voice heard’, while the NFU Brexit chief Nick von Westenholz praised the Prime Minister’s decision, describing it as ‘brave’.
The PM has just announced plans for a General Election on 8 June. We will ensure British farming’s voice is heard during the campaign pic.twitter.com/EtWnTOhqtX— NationalFarmersUnion (@NFUtweets)
PM calls General Election for 8 June. Presumably needs Parl support to get round Fixed Term Parl Act. Brave call, and with sound rationale.— Nick von Westenholz (@nvonwestenholz)
PM calls General Election for 8 June. Presumably needs Parl support to get round Fixed Term Parl Act. Brave call, and with sound rationale.— Nick von Westenholz (@nvonwestenholz) April 18, 2017
The Farmers’ Union of Wales also tweeted it would be working to make farming’s voice heard.
There will be a General Election on 8th June - our mission is clear: make sure the Voice of Welsh Farming is heard #snapelection— FUW (@FUWpress)
The FUW’s president, Glyn Roberts, said the general election must not be a distraction from Brexit progress.
“We have long been calling for the creation of a post-Brexit UK agricultural framework and we know discussions between UK and Welsh Government have been frustratingly slow”, he added.
“The timing of this election will do nothing to aid progress in establishing a UK framework for agriculture and we therefore urge the Westminster Government not to ignore the critical issues at hand.”
The FUW will be publishing its own general election manifesto ‘shortly’.
In Scotland, NFUS president Andrew McCornick said it was vital the interests of agriculture were heard properly during the election campaign because of the impact Brexit would have on the industry.
“The manifesto process will allow every party the opportunity to flesh out exactly what they want from the Brexit process”, he added.
“It is vital that they take the opportunity to clearly state what their vision is for agriculture and food production in the post-Brexit era. NFUS will seek to influence and scrutinise those manifestos and, despite the relatively short timetable between now and the election, we will pull together our own document reiterating our priorities for Scottish farmers and crofters.”
The Tenant Farmers’ Association said the surprise announcement added uncertainty to an already difficult situation and it will be ‘looking closely’ at all the party manifestos to understand what each would do with agricultural policy after Brexit.
Chief executive George Dunn added: “In a world which is becoming increasingly more insecure both through the rise of global terrorism and the straining of international relationships, is certainly time to look again at the need to increase our self-sufficiency in food as a nation.
“This is only heightened by the fact that we want high standards of production in relation to the environment, animal welfare and consumer safety which cannot be guaranteed by a greater reliance upon imported products.
“Whatever the makeup of the next UK administration, it must not underestimate the need to ensure that it has a forward looking, comprehensive programme for British agriculture which protects it against unfair competition both at home and abroad, builds resilience and supports it to produce the wider benefits enjoyed by all for which there is no market return.”
Other reactions on Twitter were even more downbeat, with James Mills claiming a big Tory majority would ‘reduce the significance of the rural vote in parliament’.
#Snapelection not good for farming IMO. Big Tory majority further reduces the significance of the rural vote in parliament— James Mills (@J_Mills87)
At the time of going to pixel (13.42), a Twitter poll set up by Jonathan Baker also suggested people thought a general election was bad for the land use sector.
Is an early election good or bad for the land use sector?— Jonathan Baker (@jojabaker)
Is an early election good or bad for the land use sector?— Jonathan Baker (@jojabaker) April 18, 2017
Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs, however, said the Prime Minister had called the election to ‘strengthen the UK’s hand during Brexit negotiations’.
“Given the amount of support it receives from Brussels, the rural sector will be among those most affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU”, he added.
“In seeking to be elected or re-elected to parliament, it is vital politicians remember the needs of our rural communities – and we will be fighting to ensure the rural voice is heard.”
More to follow...