Latest Brexit deal is given a cautious welcome by NFU

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The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has given a cautious welcome to details of a 21-month transitional period as part of the agreement to the UK leaving the EU.

Brexit negotiators David Davis and Michel Barnier have announced that the transitional period is set to last from 29 March, 2019 to December 2020, with the UK being able to negotiate and sign trade deals during this implementation stage.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “The announcement helps to have a bit more certainty for our farming businesses although clarity on the details is key. There is still outstanding vital information which food and farming businesses need to understand.

“It’s vital that there is a smooth transitional period for the farming industry, avoiding any cliff-edge scenario. This is best achieved by retaining membership of the EU Customs Union until a settled free trade relationship comes into force. The industry needs continuity after the date of withdrawal to ensure that farmers can continue to produce safe, traceable and affordable food and provide other environmental and economic benefits for the nation.

“The NFU has long called for frictionless trade with the EU, free of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. As our largest trading partner - over 70% of our exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks being sent to EU markets - access to the EU must be a top priority.

“We also understand that Government will pay the 2019 BPS scheme on the same basis as now – a welcome assurance for our farmers making business decisions now such as for planting and animal rearing. We look forward to working with Government as it introduces its own reforms to the farm payments system from 2020 - one that supports farms that are profitable, productive and competitive.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly, said that Brexit will become a reality in just over a year’s time.

Ireland will have the only major land frontier between the Union and Britain.

“Looking at the deal reached this week, it looks like a fudge on Northern Ireland to enable talks to move onto areas such as trade.

“I am worried that attempts are being made by the British negotiators to nominally agree to certain provisions on the border in the hope of moving onto trade negotiations which are their main concern, as far as I can see.

“The idea of a hard border is deeply worrying and concerning to the people of Ireland, north and south. A backstop to avoid it ever being implemented on our island needs absolute certainty and support from both sides.

“The old adage that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ has never been so true. Based on the response before Christmas from the DUP and the Tory Hard Brexiteers, I am wary of any agreement that relies exclusively on a hard border backstop provision.”