NFU calls extraordinary council meeting to debate Brexit

The NFU has called an emergency meeting of its governing body for July 1 to discuss the leaving of the UK from the European Union.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: "The NFU last year analysed the issues for farming if we were to leave and earlier this year we commissioned some independent research on the economic consequences of Brexit for British farming. The numerous meetings we held round the country have given us a very clear idea of the views of our members.

"All of this puts us in a very good position to put forward some immediate indications of the kind of things we will want when we leave the European Union.

"The extraordinary NFU Council on July 1 will be an early opportunity to put some flesh on these bones. We will then want to consult widely with members on detailed proposals.

"Currently we benefit from more than 50 trade agreements with countries in the rest of the world. We will continue to need these kind of arrangements in future, whether this means negotiating new deals or not.

"A key question we asked the Leave camp, and on which we never received a clear answer, was what kind of access would an independent UK give to imports from the rest of the world? Our requirement is that we are not open to imports which are produced to lower standards.

"During the Referendum we have repeatedly drawn attention to our sector’s need for access to non-UK labour, both seasonal and full-time. Outside the EU we will need a student agricultural workers scheme, which is open to students from around the world.

"Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to build a new British agricultural policy which is adapted to our needs, easy to understand and simple to administer. We will be looking for guarantees that the support given to our farmers is equal to that given to farmers in the EU, who will still be our principal competitors.

NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: "Prices will have to go up to ensure farms stay in profit.

"Many are already being paid below the cost of production prices and that is not sustainable.

"We also have to pay the highest rates of pay in Europe for workers.

"For fruit and vegetables in particular we are going to have to secure higher prices or we risk losing farms and will have to rely on imports.

"Being a part of the European trading bloc we trade to a shared set of standards and the UK has been in the driving seat. We have a safe and sound food supply chain. We have food traceability and country of origin labelling."

Copa & Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said: "We are still analysing the impact on agriculture of the vote, based on both EU institutions and UK government decisions.

"But a key point for us will be to avoid any further disruption to the European agriculture market, given the importance of the economic ties across the Channel and the current agricultural market crisis. It's crucial to maintain market stability.

"Over half of UK food and drink exports currently go to the EU and the UK market is also a big export market for food and drink exports from other Member States providing European consumers with a good, diverse choice of quality produce."

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board chief executive Jane King said: "The AHDB focus remains unaffected by the decision to leave the EU - to equip levy payers with the tools to become more competitive and sustainable.

"Amongst other issues, the decision to leave brings to the fore the need for UK Government to target the best new trading relationships we can for UK food and agriculture both with the EU and other countries.

"AHDB has the skills and expertise to contribute to this work in areas such as market prioritisation, market access negotiations and facilitating relationships between UK exporters and overseas buyers. We stand ready to support the industry in identifying how it can best compete outside the EU.

"These issues will take time to resolve, but AHDB will play a full part in ensuring UK agriculture is a leading player on the global stage."

Garden Industry Manufacturers Association director Vicky Nuttall said: "Following the announcement that the UK has chosen to leave the EU there is no doubt that we are now moving into a period of uncertainty both financially and politically.

"However, at GIMA it is very much business as usual. Until we learn more about the exit strategy that will be put in place to separate the UK from the rest of the EU, we can only speculate as to both the short and long-term implications for our members of this momentous decision. 

"GIMA will be watching the situation carefully as events unfold. We remain dedicated to working on behalf of its members, and committed to doing all we can to ensure that our members cope successfully with any short or longer impact."

* The HTA has said a Free Trade Agreement for tariff-free trade with EU states could take five years to establish. Without a new deal, the UK will trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules, meaning tariffs would be in place. The legal relationship with the EU will remain the same for the next two years.

The HTA said issues raised are:

  • The potential impact of tariffs, customs charges and rules of origin declarations on EU trade 
  • The potential impact of non-tariff barriers to service trade with the EU
  • Trade outside the EU in countries with which the EU has trade deals 
  • Current regulations and standards influenced by the EU which may now be renegotiated 
  • Upcoming European legislation, its application in the UK and the significance Brussels may have going forward
  • Disruption to EU programmes and funding 
  • The future of migration, including current EU residents and future immigration policy
  • Potential for further devolution in the UK
  • Investment decisions, contracts and licenses that refer to EU legislation.

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