Ulster Farmers Union calls on DUP to consider supporting Theresa May's Brexit deal

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds surrounded by anti-Brexiteers in Westminster in September
Digital Staff

The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has called on the DUP to consider supporting Theresa May's Brexit deal.

The influential body, which represents the interests of 11,500 family farms in Northern Ireland, said a no-deal would be "absolutely disastrous" for the agri-food and farming industry.

The DUP, which has vowed to vote against the agreed EU/UK text, traditionally draws significant support from the farming community.

The move comes as key business groups in Northern Ireland have also voiced support for Theresa May's Brexit deal.


The UFU maintained a neutral position throughout the campaign leading up to the Brexit referendum in 2016.

But chief executive Wesley Aston told The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster: "We want to make sure we avoid a no-deal situation. No deal for Northern Ireland - agri-food and farming in particular - would be absolutely disastrous and we have made that patently clear over this last while."

He added: "We would support the deal going through and against that background we would ask the DUP to consider voting for this deal."

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Meanwhile, a former UFU president also accused the DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of being "disrespectful" after he claimed business figures who have welcomed the agreement may not have read the detail.

Asked on BBC Northern Ireland's The View programme about the chairman of Northern Ireland Food and Drink welcoming the deal, while the Ulster Farmer's Union supported the backstop, he replied: "They are wrong".

"I don't believe they have read the detail of this, they have not read the 500 pages," he said.

"There are serious constitutional and economic implications of this deal for Northern Ireland".

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson claimed business figures who have come out in support of the Brexit deal have not read the detail. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former UFU president Ian Marshall, who sits in the Irish Senate, said Sir Jeffrey had got it "horribly wrong".

"These are the industry captains of business in the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland," he told presenter Mark Carruthers.

"These guys have read the document, have examined the document. I have read the document, I have looked through it.

"It's actually a very credible piece of work. It's a very complicated piece of work.

"But I think it's completely disrespectful to imply that those individuals tonight haven't read, or don't understand, this piece of work.

"I think he's got it horribly wrong."

 Richard Hogg of Manufacturing NI, Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses and former UFU president Ian Marshall spoke out in favour of the withdrawl agreement on BBC's The View

Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses in Ireland also spoke out in support of the withdrawal agreement.

"We believe that the withdrawal agreement is a significant step back from the cliff edge which would result in a chaotic no-deal Brexit that would be deeply damaging and dangerous for our small firms," she said.

"We would encourage all political actors to keep this in mind as we move forward."


And Richard Hogg of Manufacturing NI told the programme that politicians should "get over yourselves".

"We need a deal of some sort. If we don't have a deal then it's all going to fall apart," he said.

"Manufacturers, we're quite a simple bunch of people. We just want to create jobs, create wealth and keep things going."



Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had earlier confirmed on the programme that the DUP will vote against the draft Brexit deal, and said if it was approved by the House of Commons his party would "have to review our position with regard to the confidence and supply agreement" which currently sees its MPs prop up Conservative government.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Karen Bradley briefed local business figures on the detail of the deal. The attendees at the Belfast meeting were members of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Afterwards, vice-president John Healy said the reaction was broadly positive.

"The consensus around the table is generally there are a lot of positives there for business," he said.

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