The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the comments from the DEFRA Secretary, Michael Gove, on the need for MPs at Westminster to back the EU Withdrawal Bill confirm concerns about the risk a no deal Brexit would pose for agriculture in Northern Ireland.
The UFU was responding to comments by Mr Gove at the annual Oxford Farming Conference.
It says it welcomes the acceptance by the minister responsible for UK agriculture that leaving the EU without a deal in place would be bad for both the short and long-term stability of agriculture.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, said these comments were all the more worthy of attention, given that Mr Gove is a staunch advocate of the benefits of leaving the EU.
“He clearly now accepts that the opportunities that will bring can only be positive for farming in all parts of the UK if linked to arrangements that allow us to continue trading with the EU-27 on the basis of open borders,” said Mr Ferguson.
He added that he welcomed the commitment by the minister to deliver a future agricultural model with a greater focus on technology.
“This should help deliver a post-Brexit farming industry that is globally competitive, productive and profitable,” said the UFU president.
Mr Ferguson said there was an element of realism in Mr Gove’s comments that in the short-term farming and the food industry would experience turbulence on the road to Brexit. He said the UFU wanted to see this minimised and for the focus to be on the opportunities Brexit will bring to do things differently.
“These are all issues for the debate, but the most immediate threat remains the fallout from a no deal Brexit, if parliament cannot agree a way ahead.
“We want certainty, but that will take time. However, we have no doubts that leaving the EU in March without a road map to a trading relationship would be a financial disaster for all farmers in Northern Ireland,” said the UFU president, who was in Oxford for the Gove speech.