NFU Cymru President Stephen James has urged the UK Government to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario that could have ‘severe implications’ for Welsh farmers.
Speaking at NFU Cymru Conference 2017 at the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells, Mr James stressed that the Welsh agricultural industry is ‘fast running out of patience’ with both the UK Government and the European Union over the Article 50 negotiations. He warned that farming businesses will suffer if a deal securing an economic relationship with the EU cannot be reached.
Mr James maintained that the only ‘sensible option’ for Brexit negotiators was for the UK to remain a part of the Customs Union, at least until a time where a comprehensive free trade agreement can be reached.
Addressing the conference on Thursday 2nd November, Mr James said: “With less than a year and a half until our departure from the EU, farmers and growers are fast running out of patience with both sides over the Article 50 negotiations. The time has come for both the UK and EU governments to acknowledge that businesses and individuals across Europe will suffer if a deal securing an ongoing and closely-integrated economic relationship is not reached.
“A ‘no deal’ scenario would have severe implications for our industry and I find even the thought of such a prospect deeply troubling. With the majority of our food exports going to the EU any impact of a ‘no deal’ on farming and food production would have severe knock-on effects, not just to our sector but to the wider economy of Wales that relies on a thriving food and farming sector.
“The UK Government must secure a free trade agreement with the EU, which maintains tariff free trade in agricultural goods between the UK and EU, and also avoids costly and disruptive non-tariff barriers. If such an agreement cannot be reached by March 2019, then transitional arrangements, which allow us to continue to access our largest and closest export market, must be put in place. In my mind the only sensible option is for us to remain in the Customs Union until such time as a comprehensive free trade agreement is agreed between the EU and the UK.”
Whilst there are significant challenges, Mr James added that the Welsh agricultural industry should make the best of the opportunity to further develop and grow the Welsh food and farming industry.
“When we leave the EU there is an opportunity to look at how we can ensure that we use a far greater share of Welsh and British food in our schools, our hospitals and within the military,” said Mr James.
“Agriculture is, of course, one of the sectors which has been most impacted by EU legislation. Brexit presents us with the opportunity to re-think regulation and articulate our own vision for the new regulatory landscape.
“This is an opportunity for us in Wales to create a new agricultural policy framework that helps to achieve our vision of a productive, progressive and profitable farming industry that delivers jobs, growth and investment for Wales.”