‘Ministers must deliver on Defra Secretary’s pledge’

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has said that UK ministers and negotiators must deliver on the Defra Secretary of State’s pledge that future trade arrangements will not put the UK’s farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

Mr Nicholson said: “During her keynote address at the NFU conference in Birmingham last week the Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom MP set out five principles to shape future food and farming policy in the UK.

“From reading the speech and listening to some of the conference coverage it is clear that within these broad principles there was no new detail in relation to the potential shape of agricultural policy once the UK leaves the European Union.

“This lack of information is frustrating for farmers. I do however welcome that during her comments the minister recognised the high welfare, environmental and traceability standards that the UK’s farmers adhere to and reiterated that these high standards will be reflected in trade agreements post-Brexit.

“Dr Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade is however the lead cabinet member when it comes to developing the UK’s post-Brexit trade relations.”

Mr Nicholson continued: “There are many benefits associated with UK food and farming. The agri-food industry is dynamic and innovative, supporting a diverse range of jobs and underpinning rural communities right across the UK. Farmers and growers also manage the rural landscape which is key for the environment and tourism.

“These benefits could be lost if agriculture is used as a bargaining chip by UK ministers keen to swiftly secure trade agreements once we exit the European Union.

“It is therefore vital that the Defra Secretary’s comments regarding the need for tariff free access to the EU single market and her pledge to incorporate high UK production standards in international trade agreements are actually delivered upon by Dr Fox and his negotiating team.”