The Prime Minister’s commitment to a transitional period after the UK leaves the EU will provide important stability for farm businesses, the NFU has said, and prepares the ground for both sides to make progress in Brexit negotiations.
However, more details are needed if farmers and growers are to have the certainty to plan and invest in their businesses in the future.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Farmers and growers are becoming increasingly alarmed at the prospect of a “no deal” departure from the EU. The resulting disruption to trade, access to labour and business stability would pose a fundamental threat to the viability of many of their businesses.
“The implementation period that the Prime Minister spoke of will be crucial if we are to reach a Brexit settlement that backs British farming, although we await further details on exactly how such a transition will work.
“We believe at least two years is needed to ensure a smooth Brexit, while also agreeing a future relationship between the EU and UK which recognises their mutual importance in terms of trade.
“With over 70% of our exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks being sent to EU markets, the NFU has been making the strongest case for a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and UK.
“We were pleased to hear the Prime Minister say there is no intention to impose tariffs where none currently exist, which the NFU takes as a strong commitment to securing a free trade deal with the EU.
“Any agreement should maintain as far as practicable the free flow of agri-food products between the EU and UK, and following today’s speech this remains a realistic prospect, although much now depends on proper progress being made in the negotiations.
“We were also very interested to hear the Prime Minister’s commitment to maintaining free movement of people involving a registration system for new arrivals. However, the industry desperately needs more detail on how the immigration system will work both during and after the transition – vague pledges and offers are not enough if potential workers are to be reassured that they can legally take up the jobs on offer.
“The Prime Minister’s speech today reflects many of the Brexit policies the NFU has proposed since the EU referendum. Despite the lack of detail, we hope that today’s speech will move negotiations forward so that there is stability for agriculture, businesses, the economy and society at large after Brexit.
“Brexit means hard choices – politicians on all sides must now start being more honest about the trade-offs involved and the difficult questions that need answering if we are to make it a success.”