White Paper vague on agri prospects

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Agriculture and food received only passing reference in the Brexit White Paper which was published earlier this week.

The 77-page document simply confirms that leaving the EU offers the UK a significant opportunity to design new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming, land management and rural communities.

This approach, according to the proposed policy paper, will enable the UK deliver a vision for a world-leading food and farming industry and a cleaner, healthier environment, benefiting people and the economy.

Responding Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell said that the publication of the White Paper on Brexit underlines the importance of discussions on the future shape and level of support to UK agriculture, adding: “The UFU is involved in that debate, here and in Great Britain. We have made clear what we see as strategic priorities to ensure farming is properly supported. The White Paper itself says little about agriculture.”

“It confirms that the UK will leave the CAP and refers to future support for a sustainable and productive agricultural industry. Along with the other farm unions we will be pressing to ensure that is delivered in a way that will benefit the industry here.”

Meanwhile, Strathroy Dairy director Cormac Cunningham sees no reason why a Brexit trade deal cannot be arrived at which would allow the continuing free movement of agricultural goods across the border in both directions.

“I am extremely concerned about the usage of the term frictionless border, as this assumes that tariffs could still be paid on agricultural goods that are transported north:south and south:north,” he said.

Under the Brexit deal envisaged by Mr Cunningham, lamb produced in Northern Ireland but subsequently processed south of the border, could be sold into the EU market tariff free.

“The same principle should hold for southern pigs slaughtered in the north and the subsequent meat products then sent back to the Republic of Ireland,” he said.

“Such an arrangement would not undermine the current red Tractor and Farm Quality Assurance Schemes operating in Northern Ireland. In reality, the amount of food produced in Northern Ireland is relatively small from an EU perspective. And a significant number of existing member states already have specific trading arrangements in place for satellite regions that have complex political arrangements in place. Cyprus is a case in point.”

Mr Cunningham added: “Fundamentally we need to see the retention of an all-island market for agri food products. This is the only way to maximise the level of competition for the produce coming off farms, north and south.”