Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has urged the new UK Government, and the new DEFRA Secretary in particular, to show restraint and to fully consider the consequences for farmers if the UK were to crash out of the EU at the end of October.
Robin Swann said: “When I met Boris Johnson this week in Belfast I congratulated him on his appointment as Prime Minister.
“However, I also emphasised to him that at a critical time in the history of the United Kingdom, the job also came with enormous responsibilities, not least ensuring workers and industries are supported during the Brexit discussions.
“From 2016 it has been widely accepted by economists, politicians and independent think tanks that if the necessary preparations and precautions were not put in place, the Northern Ireland agri-food industry was going to be among those with most to lose from a bad Brexit outcome.
“Indeed only a few weeks ago an independent assessment from our own Department for Economy found that crashing out of the EU would have immediate and severe consequences for both the competitiveness of the Province in the all-island economy, as well as threatening NI’s place within the UK internal market.
“So I have been disappointed with much of the rhetoric from the UK and Irish Governments in recent days.
“The appointment of Theresa Villiers also has caused quite significant concern.
“Whilst I always got on with Theresa when I met her in her previous role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, there is no getting away from the fact that she is on the free trade wing of the Tory Party.
“Speaking at a DUP event last year the now Prime Minister also worryingly boasted of new free trade deals after Brexit that would cut the cost of food.
“In reality such deals would only be secured through the sacrificing of local farmers and their produce as the local market is flooded with cheaper, lower standard produce.
“I hope Boris Johnson, as well as the new DEFRA Secretary, now take the next days and weeks to fully consider the consequences of the UK either crashing out of the EU or by opening the floodgates to cheap imports.
“The simple reality remains that a good Brexit deal is essential to avoid decimating the local farming industry.”