Livestock leaders discuss post-Brexit priorities

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Access to the European market, the regulatory burden on farmers and an agricultural policy that delivers confidence have been agreed as post-Brexit priorities by the four UK farming unions.

Livestock chairmen from all four UK farming unions met this week to discuss the Brexit impact on beef and lamb producers.

Speaking after the meeting, the UFU’s Crosby Cleland, said it had been a worthwhile meeting and that all four unions were unanimous about the priorities as the UK plans its exit from the European Union.

“We need to ensure we continue to have access to the European market for our beef and lamb. But at the same time, it is important discussions to secure access to new markets around the world continue,” said Mr Cleland. He added that any opening up of access to the UK market must take account of the particular status of UK produced beef and lamb.

“Like other farming sectors, access to non-UK labour is a key issue. We are acutely aware that the meat processing sector is reliant on a secure labour supply. Without it we could see costs rising in the supply chain, which would have a knock on effect on our ability to compete in a world market.

“The regulatory burden remains a thorny issue. We recognise that any significant change could impact on our ability to trade with the Single Market. Our challenge to government is to ensure regulation is proportionate. It must not be gold plated and compliance needs to be encouraged through constructive advice,” said Mr Cleland.

He added that he would like to see farmers ‘yellow carded’ for minor mistakes, rather than financially punished when they were doing their best to comply with complex rules.

“The climate of fear about minor mistakes must end with Brexit,” he said.

The livestock leaders agreed they wanted an agricultural policy that delivers long term food security, stability and confidence around devolved administrations in the UK.

“The UK livestock sector has an opportunity to come up with a template for a productive and profitable sector. This is the start of a new era and we want be part of that debate,” said Mr Cleland.