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East Anglia Future 50

Farmers' leaders welcome 'flextention'

PUBLISHED: 15:46 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:46 11 April 2019

Minette Batters, NFU president, has welcomed the Brexit extension   Picture: KEIRON TOVELL

Minette Batters, NFU president, has welcomed the Brexit extension Picture: KEIRON TOVELL

© Keiron Tovell Photography 2017

Farmers’ leaders have reacted with a mixture of relief and exasperation over a decision to extend Article 50 to delay the UK’s departure from the European Union.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters said not leaving without a deal would avoid the catastrophic impacts this would have had, and would come as welcome news to the thousands of people running Britain’s food and farming businesses.

“However, farming, like all businesses, requires long-term planning. While this extension will provide some relief in the short-term, it remains the case that farmers and growers are still left with no certainty about the future which is hugely damaging to one of the UK’s largest manufacturing sectors, worth more than £100bn to the national economy,” she said.

“This uncertainty is having real-world business impacts right now, with investment being put on hold and essential jobs remaining unfilled. We have crops and livestock in fields with farmers and growers still in the dark about what trading environment they will be operating in, whether they will have access to a sufficient workforce to carry out essential roles this season, or what the UK’s future domestic agricultural policy will look like.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Tim Breitmeyer said: “This extension of the Brexit process to October 31 will avoid an abrupt ‘no deal’ and its negative consequences for farming and the rural economy. In a political debate which has become more and more heated and polarised, this provides some welcome breathing space to unite around the best way forward.

“While the continued uncertainty is unsettling, this should be balanced against having enough time to nurture a post-Brexit relationship with the European Union (EU) which delivers as free and frictionless trade as possible. This has to be the ultimate goal.

“The extra time needs to be used wisely. We need a more consensual approach to negotiations in both Westminster and Brussels than has been the case to date, so a deal can be collectively delivered which meets the needs of farming and the wider economy.”

The National Sheep Association (NSA) gave the ‘flextention’ a cautious welcome, but was less happy about the continuing uncertainty.

NSA chairman Bryan Griffiths said: “We welcome that sheep farmers won’t be thrown into a no deal scenario this week. It’s vital we have the EU markets available to sell our produce and this extended unfettered access, in which we won’t have to face tariffs this season, is greatly appreciated by the sheep industry.”

But he added: “What we can’t afford is to find ourselves six months down the line in the same position, risking a no deal again. We’re relying on our politicians now to come up with a viable solution.”

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