PM assures MP on status of NI farming

Upper Bann MP David Simpson has questioned Prime Minister Theresa May on the important status that will be given to the agri-food sector during her negotiations on the UK's exit from the European Union.

Responding to Mr Simpson’s question, the Prime Minister said: “I can absolutely assure the Honorable Gentleman that the UK Government is determined to get the best possible deal on exiting the EU for the British people.

“We are very conscious of the importance of the agri-food’s sector to Northern Ireland and we will do everything to listen to the representations from the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Speaking to Farming Life following the debate, Mr Simpson said: “The Prime Minister has given her most public commitment yet that the food and farming sector in Northern Ireland will not be side lined as we reach the formal negotiations on our exit from the EU.

“This is a welcome development during a time when so many are getting apprehensive about the prospects from any agreement. Northern Ireland has a significant reliance on the industry and my DUP colleague and DAERA Minister has given numerous assurances that she intends to strengthen and grow the industry,” added Mr Simpson.

“We have a vision to maximise our production of high quality produce and we are happy that our Prime Minister will work with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure the long-term growth of the sector. The British Government have now publicly dispelled the doubters, so let’s work together to ensure that we can deliver a good deal for farmers in Northern Ireland and right across the rest of the UK.”

Meanwhile, the four UK Farming Unions have said it is essential for the food and farming sector to maintain full, unfettered access to the single market while having continued access to a flexible, competent and reliable workforce.

During the meeting at Stoneleigh on Monday, the presidents unveiled their post-Brexit thinking on a range of policies and discussed how the agri-food industry can come together to speak with one voice on important issues such as trade and access to labour.

The presidents outlined their bold and ambitious vision for the industry, one where competitive, profitable and progressive farming and food businesses deliver an increasing proportion of the nation’s needs for high quality, safe, affordable food to British people, as well as to new export markets.