EU referendum: NI farmers urged not to panic in light of Brexit

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Farmers in Northern Ireland are being urged not to panic about CAP support payments or changes to trade arrangements after the UK referendum decision to quit the EU.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it will continue to work hard to secure the best possible deal for Northern Ireland’s most important industry.

The UFU says it fully understands that the referendum was contentious for the farming and food industry and the 12,000 farming families the UFU represents.

President Barclay Bell said that from the outset the Union’s position was that it would not tell members how they should vote.

He added: “We also stuck by a commitment not to take part in any panel discussions or interviews. We did however facilitate an industry debate before the vote. We believe that helped people reach an informed position on a once in a generation decision on future relations with the EU.”

With the UK vote to leave the EU, Mr Bell said farmers and the wider rural community should not panic about an immediate end to CAP support measures or changes in trade arrangements with the EU market particularly with the Republic of Ireland, since it will be a negotiated rather than an overnight departure from the EU.

“We don’t want farmers to panic. CAP support is guaranteed to 2019. We will immediately enter into discussions on future support arrangements, funded by the UK Treasury, and also on the continuation of trade with Europe. We also have a UK farm union’s team in Brussels that will work closely with the European Commission and UK government as the UK makes the transition to exit the EU,” said Mr Bell.

Now that an outcome has been reached, the UFU had previously scheduled meetings with its Board and Executive Committee to discuss the implications of the result and will continue to communicate with its members on the timetable for change.

Meanwhile the National Farmers’ Union President Meurig Raymond said: “The vote to leave the European Union will inevitably lead to a period of uncertainty in a number of areas that are of vital importance to Britain’s farmers.

“The NFU will engage fully and constructively with the British government to construct new arrangements. This needs to happen as soon as possible.

“Our members will rightly want to know the impact on their businesses as a matter of urgency. We understand that the negotiations will take some time to deliver but it is vital that there is early commitment to ensure British farming is not disadvantaged. It is vital that British farming is profitable and remains competitive, it is the bedrock of the food industry – Britain’s largest manufacturing sector,” he added.

“The NFU has called an extraordinary meeting of NFU Council, its governing body, next Friday July 1 2016.

“The NFU’s principles will be:

· To achieve the best possible access Europe’s markets, which will remain extremely important to Britain’s farmers.

· To get access to markets in the rest of the world, while ensuring we are protected from imports which are produced to lower standards.

· To ensure our farmers and growers can get the necessary supplies of labour, both seasonal and full-time.

· To build a British agricultural policy which is as simple as possible, adapted to our needs and guarantees parity of treatment with European farmers, who will still be our principal competitors. There must be a common framework of a British policy, while allowing a necessary degree of flexibility to devolved governments.

· Regulations and product approvals must be proportionate and based on risk and science.”