The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is seeking livestock and farm export reassurances from the UK government concerning its post-Brexit land border with the Republic of Ireland, calling for “minimal disruption” to the current relationship.
The UFU call follows a Business Advisory Group meeting at Moy Park in Northern Ireland where the country’s Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, and UK Minister for Exiting the EU, Robin Walker, addressed the importance of agriculture in relation to the Brexit process.
While describing the meeting as having been “positive and constructive”, UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, pointed out that Northern Ireland is in a unique position, as the only UK region that will share a land border with an EU member state when the UK leaves the EU.
“This is a major issue for farmers here,” he said, “especially in terms of livestock trade and as an export market. We are seeking reassurance that there will be minimal disruption to this relationship.”
Mr Chestnutt also responded to recent “suggestions by some of the Ministers’ Conservative colleagues” that leaving the EU is an opportunity for cheaper food, stating that Brexit should not be about undermining farmers with imports of cheap food.
“Instead, we should be backed to provide high quality, traceable food at a reasonable price for consumers,” he said, adding that agriculture policy post-Brexit must include support equivalent to that now provided by the EU.
The Secretary of State replied: “The UK government is focussed on securing continued growth across the whole UK economy and forging new international trading links. We see Northern Ireland’s food and agriculture sector having an important role in this.”
The Minister for Exiting the EU, added: “We’re confident of getting a good deal for the whole country, but to do this we need a UK-wide approach as we prepare for negotiations. That’s why I’m in Northern Ireland today, to hear from the people, groups and businesses that have helped to build Northern Ireland’s success and who will continue to build a brighter, more secure future for the people who live here.”
Moy Park’s executive director, Mike Mullan, welcomed Minisiters’ Brokenshire and Walker to Moy Park, adding: “The visit offered us the opportunity to discuss our business and the value it brings to the Northern Ireland economy, and we welcome this open dialogue with the Northern Ireland Secretary on the future and value of the agri-food industry.”
Headline image shows Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire (left), and UK Minister for Exiting the EU, Robin Walker (second left) during the Business Advisory Group meeting.