The Ulster Farmers’ Union says that while it is encouraging the government is pursuing a Brexit deal, the proposals as they stand do not address all its concerns, particularly around tariffs and customs.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said: “We are committed to assessing the impact for farmers of all plans and believe these proposals represent a useful starting point for further negotiations.”
The UFU accepts that the UK will leave the EU but maintains that this must be an orderly and well managed process. It has consistently said that any deal must allow free and frictionless trade to continue north/south and east/west and that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Northern Ireland’s family-run farming businesses.
“The proposed all island regulatory zone would help facilitate these crucial trading relationships. However, more clarity is needed about how the four year Stormont consent process would work as this rule has the potential to put the industry in a prolonged cycle of uncertainty. Equally important is a commitment from the government to protect our standing in the UK’s internal market. We need concrete guarantees that access to the UK market will not be affected,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU warns of the dangers if customs and tariff barriers add costs and undermine Northern Ireland’s competitive position.
“From 2021, WTO rules and tariffs will apply for all exports from NI unless the UK has a Free Trade Agreement in place. This does not give the certainty around tariff free access that we require. It is essential for the livelihood of family-run farming businesses that this is confirmed,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU says it is not yet convinced that the plans on the table, especially in terms of tariffs and customs, represent a workable solution for agriculture and food.
“We want to see concrete evidence that would reassure us about the impact on farm businesses and farm families. That reassurance is not yet there in these proposals, but we are hopeful that they are only a starting point in the negotiation,” said the UFU president.
The UFU has sought the views of its policy committees as part of its analysis of the proposals. Discussions continue and the proposals, or any updated versions, will also be brought to the UFU’s overarching Executive committee for consideration.