Free trade must be maintained in Brexit say farming unions

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Livestock representatives from the UK farming unions and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have met in Belfast to discuss Brexit and the trade implications for the livestock sector.

The organisations agreed it is essential that free trade is maintained between the United Kingdom and the European Union post-Brexit.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has brought into focus many issues for the cattle and sheep sector in the UK and ROI. Our countries have strong trade links for both livestock and red meat products and it will be essential we have a free trade agreement in order to secure a healthy future for these vulnerable sectors.

Crosby Cleland, UFU beef and lamb chairman

This must include securing a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

UFU beef and lamb chairman Crosby Cleland said: “The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has brought into focus many issues for the cattle and sheep sector in the UK and ROI.

“Our countries have strong trade links for both livestock and red meat products and it will be essential we have a free trade agreement in order to secure a healthy future for these vulnerable sectors.”

Existing trade links between the UK and ROI are well established and play a vital role in each economy.

Mr Cleland said politicians must take this into consideration during Brexit negotiations.

He said: “Nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s beef exports go to ROI while 50 per cent of Irish beef exports are marketed in the UK.

“In terms of sheep, the fact that over 40 per cent of Northern Ireland’s lambs are processed in the Republic of Ireland and 90 per cent of the UK’s lamb exports are destined for the European market show that there is a lot hanging on achieving a progressive free trade arrangement.”

The unions agree that in order to achieve favourable trading conditions between the UK and EU post-Brexit, there must be equivalent standards for agricultural practices and processing.

Mr Cleland said: “The existing standards that are in place will give us a solid foundation to work from and help ease the negotiating process.

“The UK and Irish farming unions are committed to finding practical solutions that allow for the harmonious trade of livestock and red meat products between the UK and the EU to continue post-Brexit.”