The Ulster Farmers’ Union has defended its support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal, saying a ‘no-deal’ scenario would “put family-run farm businesses at risk”.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said the union was backing the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU, although he accepts it “is not perfect”.
Mr Ferguson said: “During the EU referendum, the UFU didn’t take an official position but following the result we got down to the business of trying to secure the best Brexit deal for agriculture.
“As always, our focus is securing the best future possible for our family-run farms in Northern Ireland.”
The UFU president also stated that there had been no pressure from government to publicly back the controversial deal.
He said: “It is unrealistic to expect that all our members will agree 100% on everything, all of the time. The UFU has argued that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would have a devastating impact on farmers in Northern Ireland.
“This has been supported by a number of independent reports from AFBI, LMC, and more. ‘No deal’ has been considered extensively within the UFU’s internal committee structure and has consistently been found to be the worst of all possible options.
“The position was confirmed again at our executive meeting in October.”
Mr Ferguson said the proposed transition period, which includes the whole of the UK, will allow time to negotiate a UK-wide free trade agreement with the EU.
He added: “The specific protocol that relates to NI and ROI focuses on standards but would still allow Northern Ireland to implement our own domestic agricultural policy and would only kick in as a last resort. However, the aim is to never get to that point.
“Our biggest concerns are not only that additional tariffs and checks would be introduced on our exports but also that the UK market could be flooded with cheaper, lower-standard food from beyond the EU 27.”