Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann has claimed that Northern Ireland’s farmers have all but been abandoned and forgotten about in the recent discussions surrounding Brexit in Westminster.
Robin Swann said: “With little more than two months to go it is a total outrage that the UK is hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit.
“The fact that such a scenario, which only until a few weeks ago would have been denounced as scaremongering, now appears the most likely outcome is a damning indictment on the negotiators on both sides.
“I’ve always believed that no-deal Brexit would be the worst possible outcome for both the EU and the UK, and for the NI agricultural sector in particular as it could lead to potentially catastrophic economic repercussions for the industry.
“Whilst farmers across the UK are anxiously watching to see what will happen, the fact remains that it is those in Northern Ireland that will face the full brunt of living within WTO tariffs and trade restrictions.
“The issue of local milk crossing the border everyday has been talked about widely but I wonder if the Prime Minister or anyone in her team has sat down and thought about what a hard border would actually mean for our dairy farmers, our sheep farmers, our beef farmers, our pig farmers, our fruit and vegetable farmers, their employees and their families.
“Whilst I still think her last attempt of an agreement was a bad deal, there is still scope to fix it.
“A great deal of farmers across Northern Ireland have very genuine concerns about what the next couple of months will bring, as do bodies such as the Ulster Farmers’ Union. We just need Westminster to begin listening,” added Mr Swann.
“Yet it’s infuriating that the impact of a hard border on family farms here has long been pushed to the side in favour of the pantomime going on within the Conservative Party and then whatever Parliamentary time is left is usually taken up with the party political manoeuvrings of Labour.
“That’s why I feel the Prime Minister has no choice but to extend Article 50. We simply can’t afford a crash Brexit and I’d rather have a slightly delayed process over a totally bungled one.
“That would then give her the time to consider all options, including one that I suggested earlier this month of the common travel area for people between the UK and Ireland being replicated for goods,” added Mr Swann.
“If nothing changes, on March 30th it would be a travesty if Parliament and the Government were to turn around and admit that they underestimated the impact a no deal Brexit would have on farmers in Northern Ireland.”