‘Scale of defeat has sent a clear signal’ – UFU

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has responded to the vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, saying the result was expected, but that the scale of the deal’s defeat “has sent a clear signal”.

The union’s president, Ivor Ferguson, reiterated his organisation’s point that a no-deal Brexit must be avoided.

The withdrawal agreement was defeated resoundingly, with 432 votes cast against, and 202 in favour.

“The UFU respects the referendum result, and that the UK will leave the EU. However, leaving with no-deal would have catastrophic consequences for family-farm businesses in Northern Ireland,” warned Ferguson.

It means high tariffs on our exports, creating an effective trade embargo on export of animal-based products, and the possibility of lower standard imports flooding the UK market, crippling the industry and rendering our farmers uncompetitive.

Ferguson urged Prime Minister Theresa May – assuming she wins this evening’s vote of confidence in the Parliament, as she is expected to do – to move quickly on with dealing with Brexit.

“March 29 is fast approaching, and no deal is the default outcome. It is absolutely essential that urgent progress is made to avoid this and secure an orderly exit from the EU,” claimed Ferguson.

He expects there to be a great deal of activity in the coming days in the House of Commons in order to secure a cross-party plan of action.

“We expect lots of activity in the next few days and securing cross-party parliamentary consensus on an alternative plan now appears to be a possible way forward,” said Ferguson.

Concluding, he said: “Indications are that the majority of MPs want to avoid a no-deal scenario. This is their opportunity to deliver.”