Great Repeal bill is an ‘opportunity’

Barclay Bell, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers' Union. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Barclay Bell, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers' Union. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The UK’s four farming unions say that the government’s Great Repeal Bill must be seen as an opportunity not just to ensure continuity but to deliver a regulatory framework suited to UK farmers.

The comments were made as the Ulster Farmers’ Union, NFU, NFU Cymru, and NFU Scotland held a joint meeting in Newcastle to discuss the latest developments around Brexit.

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell said: “It’s clear that the intention of the Bill is to replicate EU law intact and unchanged into UK law as far as practicable, and to make changes only to ensure laws remain operable. We hope that this is not a missed opportunity, and that Government will, as a matter of priority, look at ways to ensure agriculture operates under an efficient and streamlined regulatory system, for instance through a future Agriculture Bill.

“The task of transferring the vast expanse of existing EU law into UK law will be one of the biggest legislative challenges this country has ever faced. And farming is probably impacted more than any other sector, with a huge number of pieces of directly applicable EU legislation and national implementing regulations governing the way our farmers carry out their day-to-day businesses. Most importantly it must not jeopardise our future trading relationship with Europe.

“We recognise the size of this challenge, and with it the need to adopt a process that is manageable within the short timeframe available. We also recognise the importance of ensuring a high degree of continuity and stability to provide businesses with certainty as they navigate Brexit, and to accommodate the need to keep standards aligned, a key issue as the government begins to negotiate a critically important free trade deal with the EU.

“Nevertheless, Brexit also provides the opportunity to review much of the regulation governing farming. Too often, farmers have been burdened by rules and requirements that stifle their ability to farm for no discernible benefit. We recognise the value of good regulation, which can foster innovation or promote productivity while protecting our health and the environment or standardising operations. But bad regulation often achieves none of these”