McGrath meets with Scottish industry

From left to right: Willie Thomson, local farmer, Lord Empey, Joan Bruton TD, Colin McGrath MLA, Martin Vickers MP, Deputy John Le Fondre (Jersey) and Jonathan Hall, Scottish NFU Director of Policy
From left to right: Willie Thomson, local farmer, Lord Empey, Joan Bruton TD, Colin McGrath MLA, Martin Vickers MP, Deputy John Le Fondre (Jersey) and Jonathan Hall, Scottish NFU Director of Policy

SDLP MLA for South Down, Colin McGrath has met representatives of the Scottish farming union and visited farms in the Edinburgh area to assess the potential impact of Brexit.

Mr McGrath is a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Association’s Committee which is undertaking an inquiry into the impact of Brexit on the agri-food industry.

Commenting the South Down MLA said: “It has been important for our committee to hear at first hand the issues that farmers and producers will face. There is much uncertainty in the sector currently and this is impacting sectoral confidence.

“We have undertaken hearings and meetings across these islands and will be producing a report with recommendations for the BIPA Plenary to approve.

“Similar issues have been raised in the different locations at the various hearings and range from concerns about extra regulations, inability to trade freely and in a frictionless way, the impact the Brexit process will have on overheads and concern about additional paperwork and administrative tasks,” added Mr McGrath.

“The European Union has provided funding streams for the farming community and sector and there is a worry that this will reduce or be completely removed.

“Many of the larger producers have highlighted that access to a steady flow of workforce is necessary and any curtailment on the freedom of movement of people across Europe could be a major problem for the sector.

With many of the issues it is the uncertainty which is causing the biggest problem. The sector needs a strong voice advocating on its behalf and the lack of an NI Executive isn’t helping and is indeed hampering the work to resolve the issues the agri-food industry and wider agricultural sector faces,” he added.

Mr McGrath said the issues raised and concerns voiced will form the basis of the Committee Report which will be delivered to the highest levels of government in London, Dublin and devolved administrations.