During the first session of the UK DEFRA Committee, Upper Bann MP David Simpson questioned DEFRA Secretary of State Michael Gove MP on issues relating to the Irish border, sustainability of employment and the importance of a strong relationship between DAERA and DEFRA.
During the session Mr Simpson, the sole NI representative, stated: “In Northern Ireland there are approximately 100,000 people employed in the agri-food sector, so it is vital that we try and keep those relations going. I assume that you [Michael Gove] have a reasonably good working relationship with your counterpart in the Republic. It is in their interests as well to keep this flowing. I assume the final decision on all this will be down to Brussels.”
In response Michael Gove stated: “Ultimately we all want to see a good agreement. There will be a withdrawal agreement. It is a tribute to the foreign service of the Republic and its political leadership that they were able to ensure that at the top of the EU’s agenda was making sure there was a good solution for the Republic and Northern Ireland. I think everyone recognises, for a host of reasons, that is important.”
Following the meeting Mr Simpson told Farming Life: “The relationship between the UK Government and Northern Ireland in recent months has helped secure important international trading deals for the beef and pork sector.
“It is in everybody’s interests to keep a common sense approach to the border issue and other factors effecting the industry post-Brexit. We need the relationship between the UK Government and Northern Ireland moving forward as best as we can.”