‘More to come’ as UK food and farming sector bodies unite over Brexit trade impact

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Barclay Bell has said there is “more to come” in terms of the sector’s Brexit lobbying.

It comes as the UFU was among almost 40 organisations representing the UK’s food and farming industry to join forces to set out what a successful Brexit would mean to them.

Representatives met at the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU’s) recent ‘Brexit360’ event to discuss common ground in the industry. Bell attended the meeting along with UFU chief executive Wesley Aston.

The letter, which has been sent to Number 10 Downing Street, demanded the Government acts to protect the £112 billion (€125.7 billion) sector through Brexit.

‘Uncertainty already felt’

It was backed by 36 organisations – including Dairy UK and the NFU – and cites labour; trade tariffs; and customs as potential stumbling blocks to the industry.

It said the effects of uncertainty were “already being felt in the sector”.

Delegates were united in their view that a thriving domestic food and farming base is central to the future environmental, social and economic health of the country.

‘A strong signal’

The letter warned: “A Brexit that fails to champion UK food producers and the businesses that rely on them will be bad for the country’s landscape, the economy and critically our society.”

Commenting on the matter, Barclay Bell said: “This statement is a strong signal urging Government to recognise the crucial role the food supply sector will continue to play in post-Brexit Britain.

“In providing people with a safe, secure and affordable supply of food to some of the highest welfare and environmental standards in the world; in managing over 70% of the UK landmass that is farmed; in providing 3.9 million jobs in industries, both pre and post farm-gate; and in contributing to two of the UK economy’s big success stories: UK manufacturing and retail.

‘More to come’

“The Government must ensure it supports these vital advantages delivered by UK food and drink businesses as it negotiates our withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the EU.

This is a strong coalition of 36 signatories that represent a huge range of food businesses from farmers and agricultural suppliers, to food manufacturers and retailers.

“And there is more to come; we have agreed to build on the principles discussed and to produce a shared manifesto harnessing the support of food and drink companies across the UK ahead of the EU Council in March,” he concluded.