‘The North and Wales must work together to maximise agriculture opportunities post-Brexit’

Northern Ireland and Wales must work together to maximise opportunities for agriculture and the environment following the Brexit vote, the North’s Minister for Agriculture, Michelle McIlveen, has said.

Minister McIlveen was speaking at the Royal Welsh Show this week where she met with her Welsh counterpart Lesley Griffiths.

Minister McIlveen said that Northern Ireland and Wales share many areas of common interest.

“Both countries have large and vibrant rural communities, with agri-food making a major contribution to the economy.

“There are clear and obvious benefits, therefore, to stimulating and further developing our capability and competitiveness in this sector, and continuing to nurture and support these rural communities.”

She added that her top priority is to ensure Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry, rural communities and environmental stakeholders fully exploit the new opportunities presented following the Brexit vote.

However, the Minister admitted that serious challenges lie ahead and she underlined the importance for the livestock and crop sectors to be supported by the Government during the transition period.

“The focus going forward is on delivering Brexit and securing the best possible settlement for everyone.

“For us as Ministers and leaders in the agriculture sector, that means we protect and promote the interests of farmers and producers during and beyond the Brexit process.

“This in turn will directly benefit the wider public who enjoy, and indeed rely on, the dairy, meat and other food products that come from the agri-food industry,” Minister McIlveen said.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Minister for Agriculture, Lesley Griffiths, said the referendum result has raised a number of uncertainties across all sectors.

“My meeting with Minister McIlveen gave us an opportunity to discuss our priorities post-Brexit and how we can work together to ensure these are included in the UK Government’s negotiations on the terms and timings of the UK’s exit from the EU.

“EU membership has provided the framework for funding and regulation of agriculture and environment across the whole UK, as well as being important to our trading relationships, so it is vital that we play our full part as devolved administrations in determining the basis for future policy, programmes and regulations.”