Horticulture industry reacts to election call

NFU calls for political parties to back farming in the run up to the snap general election on June 8, as Prime Minister Theresa May, seeks to create unity at Westminster during Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May
Theresa May

The HTA said: "The HTA has worked hard over the last few months with government and industry to develop its vision for horticulture post-Brexit. In the run up to, and after the election on June 8 we will look to continue to collaborative with government to develop the industry in the best interest of our members. We are confident that whatever the result of the general election we can secure a positive deal for our industry. Whoever comes to power, certainty and stability will be crucial to allowing our, and all other industries to flourish in this age when they are in such limited supply."

British Growers Association chief executive Jack Ward said: "It's a bolt from the blue. Time was already short for sorting out a post-Brexit deal. Now everything will go on hold for eight weeks, during which we won't make any progress. Businesses thrive on certainty and continuity, which is in short supply.

"The last Conservative manifesto had some useful stuff on agriculture and horticulture too. But these, covering the whole gamut of policy, will now be produced in  matter of weeks - how much time and thought will go into them?"

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: "With farming arguably the sector most impacted by Brexit, NFU members will want to understand how each of the political parties plans to support profitable, productive and progressive agriculture and horticulture in the future. The right post-Brexit trade deal is absolutely critical but equally well so is a new wider policy framework that better delivers for farming and the nation.

"Throughout the next seven weeks the NFU will ensure that all parties fully understand and engage with the food and farming community on the issues facing the sector both now and post-Brexit. British farms currently grow the raw ingredients for the UK food and drink manufacturing sector worth £108 billion and moreover the public want to continue to buy British food. For that to happen it’s vital that candidates recognise the enormous contribution that agriculture makes - for every £1 invested, farming delivers £7.40 back to this country – and to back British farming."

Landscape Institute president Merrick Denton-Thompson said the election would further delay Parliamentary business, but that was not necessarily a bad thing.

"The negotiations for the UK to exit the European Union is delaying numerous plans and policies, including those around the 25 Year Environment Plan and it is inevitable that a general election will delay progress even further," he told Horticulture Week.

"However a corporate plan for the environment is best developed over time and not rushed by short-term politics or short-term financial horizons. Our very survival depends on re-establishing a symbiotic relationship between humanity and natural systems – this is the long game we are all participating in.

One process likely to be disrupted is the follow-on from the Communities and Local Government Committee's parks inquiry. The committee, which published its inquiry report in February, is currently waiting for the Government's response. It also asked for details of a cross-departmental group pledged by the parks minister Andrew Percy at the inquiry and it is not clear how far along this process is. 

Reports from Parliamentary enquiries into labour and Defra 25-year environment and farming strategies may not not be released until after the Parliamentary summer recess.

Guy Hands, the founder of private equity firm Terra Firma, which owns Wyevale Garden Centres, said: "Any efforts to provide more political stability is a positive move for business and should be welcomed by private equity industry generally. I’m hopeful that a June election will provide the UK government with a much stronger mandate going into negotiations with the EU."

The British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson, responding to the vote in Parliament today that backed the motion for a general election in June, said: "Political stability will be crucial to negotiating the best deal for the UK in the Brexit negotiations. Britain’s exit from the EU will have a profound impact on the goods that Britain imports, the products that UK consumers buy and the prices they pay. The retail industry will want to see plans from the next government that puts consumers first in the Brexit negotiations and ensures that ordinary shoppers aren’t hit with the cost of unwanted new tariffs.

"The retail industry is a driving force in our economy. Political and economic stability, and a business tax environment fit for purpose in the 21st century, is what’s needed for the retail industry to drive productivity with better jobs, innovation and new skills for the digital age."

BALI said: "Parliament’s support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s request that a snap General Election be held on 8 June is no surprise, although her initial announcement undoubtedly was. BALI has concerns that this interruption to the increasingly productive discussions industry bodies have been having with Government departments on issues including parks, skills and biosecurity could hold back progress if parliamentary seats are lost and departmental ministers change.

"That said, it is vital that the Government elected to take the United Kingdom through Brexit has both a clear mandate to undertake the Brexit negotiations and time thereafter to ensure the outcome of those negotiations can be implemented before a further General Election is called. BALI will continue to support its members throughout Brexit and beyond by working with the wider industry and the elected government of the day."

May said: "The country is coming together but Westminster is not."

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