UFU will not declare its hand yet on a Brexit

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) will not be hurried into a policy decision regarding its stance on whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union, according to the organisation’s chief executive Wesley Aston.

“We are coming under pressure from organisations, such as the CBI, to declare our hand now in favour of the status quo,” he said.

“But that’s not going to happen. In the first instance we will wait until the Prime Minister David Cameron has concluded his negotiations with Brussels on the matter.

“He is committed to getting a new deal for the UK, where the EU is concerned. Once we see what is in the final package, it will then be up to UFU members to decide on what our final policy position will be.”

Aston made it clear that, irrespective of what happens in the upcoming EU membership referendum, that the Union will be fighting to ensure that all of Northern Ireland’s current trading relationships with other EU member states are maintained.

On the issue of Exchequer funding for agriculture in Northern Ireland post a Brexit, the UFU representative said that the UK is committed to funding the current CAP support measures until 2019.

“Fundamentally, the UK is now engaged in a democratic process,” he said.

“And, irrespective of the final deal secured by Cameron with Brussels, our membership may well take the view that getting actively involved in the EU membership debate could be detrimental in the context of the overall process.

“And this is not just a straight yes or no vote. The Union has many concerns regarding the principles underlying the decision making procedures followed within the EU at the present time. As far as we are concerned scientific fact and innovation should be driving this entire process.

“But we are not seeing these principles espoused, at all, where issues such as the rolling out of GM technologies are concerned.”

Aston hinted that Cameron could push to have the EU membership referendum during 2016 and not next year, as had been previously speculated.

“The Prime Minister may well conclude his negotiations with Brussels over the coming weeks, after which he would have the option of having the referendum sooner rather than later,” he added.