East region's farm leaders warn of serious harm to sector if 'no deal' Brexit goes ahead
PUBLISHED: 17:05 16 January 2019
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Worried East Anglian farmers' leaders warned that a 'no deal' Brexit would have a 'serious impact' on rural businesses as the political crisis deepened following a crushing defeat for prime minister Theresa May's European Union (EU) exit strategy.
National Farmers’ Union (NFU) regional director Rachel Carrington said the House of Commons decision to reject the deal heightened concerns a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could be on the cards, an outcome that she warned would have “a serious impact on farm businesses in Suffolk and Essex and harm the country’s ability to produce home-grown food”.
Country Land and Business East regional director Ben Underwood said the rural economy needed urgent clarity.
“Losing the vote at this critical stage means rural businesses continue to face significant uncertainty on the nature of the UK’s departure from the EU,” he said. “With Brexit less than three months away we need urgent clarity from the Prime Minister on her next steps and how she plans to deliver a Brexit which provides the opportunities that leaving the EU presents, whilst ensuring no harm to farming, the rural economy and communities across the countryside. This must include the free and frictionless trade between the UK and EU, on which many rural businesses depend.”
Ms Carrington said the uncertainty was already “proving so damaging for business confidence and investment decisions throughout the food and farming industry”. “We’ve been clear that reaching a Brexit deal is a priority, one that allows for free and frictionless trade with the EU, our biggest trading partner. We’ll be maintaining close contact with the region’s MPs as events unfold, to ensure that farming’s voice is heard and recognised across parliament.”
National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executie Phil Stock said the situation was “very concerning”. “Right now the only thing we know is that we are heading closer and closer to a no deal, something we know would be extremely damaging for sheep farming and for our wider agricultural industry.”
NFU president Minette Batters said a no-deal Brexit appeared increasingly likely. “I have been clear that such an exit would simply be catastrophic for Britain and its food and farming sector,” she said.