Welsh farmers must ‘hold political feet to fire’ on Brexit

Welsh farmers need to “hold politicians’ feet to the fire” on Brexit talks, the outgoing leader of the largest farming organisation in Wales has stated.

President of the Welsh branch of the UK National Farmers’ Union (NFU Cymru) Stephen James has told a special Brexit farming conference that the association must continue to put pressure on decision makers to deliver a Brexit deal that will enable a “productive, profitable and progressive future for agriculture in Wales”.

Speaking in his last event as NFU Cymru (Cymru is the Welsh name for Wales) president, James said that his organisation would continue to hold politicians to account to make sure Welsh farming is not disadvantaged as part of the negotiations over the UK’s EU divorce.

James said: “More than ever, over the coming months, we are going to have to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on the crucial issue of trade.

Many promises and assurances were made, during and after the referendum, about the apparent ease with which an attractive and favourable trade deal could be struck with the EU27.

“A trade deal which sees our crucial exports fettered by tariff and non-tariff barriers will immediately put us at a disadvantage compared to our EU competitors, and we have to maintain the pressure on our politicians to ensure that such a situation is not allowed to come about,” the outgoing president said at the ‘Brexit: Shaping the Future of Welsh Agriculture’ event.

“Likewise, with regard to Wales, we were assured that we would not lose out on a penny as a result of Brexit. If Wales is not to lose out, then we must, as a bare minimum, continue to receive the same level of funding from the UK government as we currently receive from the EU.

Remaining within EU Customs Union

Regarding the upcoming challenges and opportunities for Welsh agriculture, James said: “While I am positive for the future, I am also realistic. I recognise that there are many challenges to overcome if we are to achieve our vision for a productive, profitable and progressive future for Welsh farming.

Our future trading arrangement with the EU will be crucial and none more so than in Wales where we are so reliant on this flow of agricultural products.

“I believe that our interests are best served by the UK remaining within the EU Customs Union; until such time as a comprehensive UK-EU free trade agreement can be agreed.

“Farming is no different to any other business. Our biggest challenge at present is uncertainty over the future direction which hampers our ability to make clear investment and strategic business decisions,” the president concluded.