Industry focuses on opportunity to promote horticulture as Brexit formally triggered

Horticulture industry figures say they are keen to work closely with Government as the official process of Britain leaving the EU begins through triggering Article 50.

HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis-Machin said: "We are optimistic about the opportunities for the garden industry. There is mounting enthusiasm for growing more plants in the UK, for the obvious economic gain and to mitigate against biosecurity risk. To compete more effectively, we know that as an industry we need to embrace digital technology and raise our game with our supply chain efficiency. The invites have started to arrive for future planning discussions on various sector areas, and we are excited about helping shape our future."

Crop Protection Association chief executive officer Sarah Mukherjee said of the Brexit move: "Our exit from the EU will provide the UK with an opportunity to become a global leader in crop protection research and development.

"As the Brexit negotiations commence we are keen to work with government departments to help develop a regulatory environment that encourages investment in innovation, supports productive agriculture, and at the same time protects and enhances our environment."

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: "Our industry is vital to Britain. We have to take this opportunity to tell the country – and the world – of our high standards; of the pride we have in the food we produce and the importance of our industry. Farming and food production plays a crucial role in the life and economy of our country and therefore it is important this government ensures food and farming is at the forefront of their priorities as they negotiate our exit from the EU.

"The report we published at NFU Conference last month showed for the first time farming’s contribution to the country in monetary value - for every £1 invested in farm support, farming delivers £7.40 back to the UK economy. This clearly demonstrates the role farmers play in contributing to the wealth and prosperity of our nation.

"Agriculture is at the heart of this country of ours. It produces the raw ingredients for the largest manufacturing sector here – food and drink. This sector is worth £108 billion, employs nearly four million people and generates around £18 billion worth of export earnings annually.

"But it’s not just our core role in feeding the nation safe, high-quality food. Farming also plays an important role in managing the great British countryside - over 70 per cent of the UK’s land area is farmed, providing habitats for wildlife and iconic landscapes for us all to enjoy. This, too, has economic benefits for people living and working in rural communities as rural tourism is worth at least £2 billion a year.

"The NFU is already engaging heavily with key personnel in UK Government – last week I met with Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom and was pleased that she shared our ambition to maintain free and open trade with the EU once we leave. Defra also acknowledged the need to ensure that future reforms to the immigration system accommodate the labour requirements of the food and farming sectors.

"We will continue to seek meetings with important Whitehall departments such as Defra, the Home Office and the newly created Business, Brexit and International Trade departments.

"But what we need is our collective, coherent voice to be heard. The more NFU members who can get involved and meet their MPs, the greater impact we will have together. We will also continue to liaise with other organisations, both within and beyond the farming sector.

"This is a monumental time in the nation’s history. We are being given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of UK agriculture. We can now work with government to shape a domestic agricultural policy that promotes competitive, profitable and progressive farm businesses, designed to meet the specific needs of UK farmers."

Amenity Forum chairman John Moverley said: "In correspondence to me, many have sought clarification on how BREXIT might impact upon the area of weed, pest and disease control. The fact is that, certainly in terms of regulation and control, nothing changes and is very unlikely to do so at least until the UK negotiates its exit from the EU. The UK has adopted the Sustainable Use Directive in its National Action Plan. In that context, in the immediate term, it is business as usual. The UK has been a leader in promoting and adopting best practice and the Amenity Forum, acting on behalf of the sector, is ready to actively engage with UK government in the period ahead as our exit is achieved.  Over the coming months, we will seek to keep all involved informed of developments and this will be very much an area of debate and discussion at our national conference being held on October 13th.

He added: "Change does provide real opportunity for the sector to influence new approaches and to be fully engaged in seeking out solutions to existing problems. Weed, pest and disease control is both important and essential. It ensures our trains keep running, our parks and pavements are safe, our sports fields are fit for purpose, our transport networks remain operational, our environment is sustainable and so much more. A key campaign led by the Amenity Forum is focused on this and seeking to increase awareness of the public and all involved. We should be proud of what we do at whatever level. The quality of UK sports surfaces is well known and respected across the world. We need to step up our voice and present this with pride. Weed, pest and disease control is not a nice to have but is both important and essential."

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy great quality, choice and value on goods depends on a continuation of tariff-free trade on all products traded between the UK and the EU. Whether through reaching a new trading relationship quickly or securing a phased implementation deal, this must be at the heart of plans for a smooth and orderly Brexit.  

On trade agreements:

"It’s encouraging that the Government recognises that the UK has a role to play as a champion of free and open trade. Our priority is to make sure the terms of our trade relationship with the EU are right before seeking new deals with other countries.  Securing a positive new customs arrangement which enables mutually beneficial opportunities for trade with the EU and the rest of the world, will be crucial to ensuring British shoppers aren’t hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened. Therefore, ensuring a phased implentation that will maintain a free and open trading environment until a new trade deal can be put in place is essential.

On the rights of EU colleagues:

"The UK retail industry employs approximately 120,000 EU nationals who make a huge contribution in every type of role from the boardroom to distribution centres and customer service. Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods. UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy, should therefore be framed to enable domestic firms, including retailers themselves, to access the skills they need. Not only would this help our exporters, but it will help retailers keep prices low for British consumers."

On the transfer of EU law:

"To maintain consistency and keep trading relationships as frictionless as possible, substantive reform to EU-originating legislation must wait until we have officially left the EU. However, in the meantime government should draw up an inventory of those existing EU regulatory powers which will be repatriated to the UK and to the devolved governments, and each in turn should outline the likely policy approach which will be taken with the soon-to-be repatriated powers."

The NFU has published the first of a series of reports setting out its Vision for the Future of Farming, covering issues that will impact on British farming now the Government has triggered Article 50.

The report details the framework being proposed and consists of three ‘cornerstones’: 

  • Productivity measures and business resilience; 
  • Volatility mitigation measures and management tools; 
  • Environmental measures.

The vision explains what the NFU believes is needed for a thriving farming sector post Brexit and outlines the approach Government and industry must take to support UK agriculture once the UK has left the EU and no longer governed by the Common Agricultural Policy.

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