Northern Ireland and Wales must work together to maximise opportunities for agriculture and the environment as the UK leaves the European Union.
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs minister Michelle McIlveen and Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths set out the position as they met during the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Powys.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister McIlveen said: “I was very pleased to attend the Royal Welsh Show at the invitation of Lesley Griffiths and to see for myself the strength and diversity of the agri-food industry in Wales.
“Northern Ireland and Wales share many areas of common interest. Both countries have large and vibrant rural communities, with agri-food making a major contribution to the economy. There are clear and obvious benefits, therefore, to stimulating and further developing our capability and competitiveness in this sector, and continuing to nurture and support these rural communities.”
The minister continued: “We are all now operating in the context of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and my top priority is to ensure Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry, rural communities and environmental stakeholders fully exploit this new opportunity.
“I do not, however, underestimate the challenges ahead. That is why I am committed to working with Government colleagues in all of the devolved administrations within the UK to ensure that the livestock and crop sectors continue to be supported. Indeed I emphasised this position to DEFRA Minister George Eustice when we met in Brussels earlier this week.”
While at the show Miss McIlveen took the opportunity to link up with Northern Ireland companies that are taking part, visiting the stand of Derrylin livestock housing manufacturer Teemore Engineering and meeting with senior representatives of Dungannon based food processor Dunbia. She said: “It was particularly pleasing to see Northern Ireland representation at the Royal Welsh Show. Dunbia and Teemore Engineering are excellent examples of local companies that are competing in national and international agri-food markets. I wish them every success.”
Minister McIlveen concluded by saying that the focus going forward is on delivering Brexit: “The people of the UK have given a clear mandate for Brexit and it is now imperative that we secure the best possible settlement for everyone.
“For us as ministers and leaders in the agriculture sector, that means we protect and promote the interests of farmers and producers during and beyond the Brexit process. This in turn will directly benefit the wider public who enjoy, and indeed rely on, the dairy, meat and other food products that come from the agri-food industry.
“In this context, this engagement with Lesley Griffiths has been extremely constructive and I look forward to further collaboration with her, and between our Departments, in the weeks and months ahead.”
Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “The referendum result has raised a number of uncertainties common across all our devolved administrations. My meeting with Minister McIlveen gave us an opportunity to discuss our priorities post-Brexit and how we can work together to ensure these are included in the UK government’s negotiations on the terms and timings of the UK’s exit from the EU.
“EU membership has provided the framework for funding and regulation of agriculture and environment across the whole UK, as well as being important to our trading relationships, so it is vital that we play our full part as devolved administrations in determining the basis for future policy, programmes and regulations.”