UFU president Ivor Ferguson has welcomed the news that the UK has been granted a further extension to Article 50 until 31st October.
He said: “It is good news for agriculture that a no deal situation on 12th April has been avoided. However, this pattern of taking the UK to the Brexit cliff edge cannot continue.
“This further extension must be used constructively. The Prime Minister, her Government and the rest of Parliament must put the interests of the country first and agree a way forward for the UK to leave the EU with a deal before 31st October.
“The continued uncertainty is damaging our agriculture industry.
“It is putting tremendous stress on farmers financially and mentally. We need immediate clarity about what our future business and trading relationship with the EU will look like to be able to plan accordingly.”
Meanwhile, the UFU says while a no deal Brexit has been avoided, for now, it is reassuring the UK has been granted third country status with the EU.
Mr Ferguson said: “It is encouraging trade would be able to continue in a no deal situation, however, as a third country it would be far from frictionless. Undoubtedly, farmers will have additional paperwork, bureaucracy, frustration and cost. Northern Ireland dairy farmers, in particular, will face major barriers to trade.”
In the event of a no deal, a third country listing confirms the UK has met the necessary animal health and biosecurity assurances required to export live animals and animal products to the EU, allowing most agricultural trade to continue.
However, Mr Ferguson says questions remain about the transport of raw milk. “It is our understanding the agreement does not cover raw milk collected from farms in Northern Ireland, which is then transported directly to facilities in the Republic of Ireland. This would pose major logistical and financial problems on dairy farms here. We are seeking urgent clarity on this issue,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UK was recently granted an extension to Article 50 and the new date for leaving the EU is set for 31st October.
“It is crucial that a no deal Brexit is avoided at all cost. It will have catastrophic consequences for our family farm businesses in Northern Ireland. The extension gives politicians more time to agree a Brexit deal. It also gives milk processors time to prepare no deal contingency plans, ensuring milk continues to flow freely and there is minimal disruption in the supply chain,” said the UFU president.