UFU unites with British farm lobby groups in support of Brexit withdrawal agreement
THE Ulster Farmers' Union has joined with its equivalent farm lobby bodies in Britain in giving its backing to the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The organisation, which represents the interests of around 12,000 family farms in Northern Ireland, issued a joint statement with NFU Scotland, NFU England and NFU Cymru declaring its support for the draft accord.
The four presidents, including the UFU's Ivor Ferguson, said: “Farmers want clarity on what the future trading relationship with Europe will be. We have argued for free and frictionless trade with the EU to continue, with no tariffs or non-tariff barriers.
“The default of trading with the EU under WTO rules alone is unacceptable and would decimate our industry.
“So the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, while not perfect, will ensure that there are no hard barriers on the day we leave the European Union, and will allow trade in agricultural goods and UK food and drink to continue throughout the transition period largely as before. This opportunity needs to be taken.
“UK farmers produce food to some of the highest production and animal welfare standards in the world."
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It added: "The food and farming industry continue to urge government to protect these standards and maintain the high levels of trade in agricultural goods between the UK and the EU, our largest export market.”
The statement comes as the UFU defended itself against media claims that there was acrimony with the DUP following a clash on the BBC's The View programme last week, when Sir Jeffrey Donaldson accused it and other business organisations of not having properly examined the 585-page withdrawal document.
The farms body also took exception to being labelled by the Irish News as a Leave bloc in the 2016 referendum.
A spokesman said: "The UFU is not a Leave group and did not support Leave in the EU referendum. We didn’t take a position on the referendum and did not encourage members to vote one way or another.
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"We work with all political parties in Northern Ireland and we do not consider ourselves ‘allies’ to any specific party."
Ahead of the EU referendum in June 2016, the organisations's then president Barclay Bell said: “It is not our job as a farm lobby organisation to try to drive floating voters one way or the other.
"We do not become involved in mainstream politics and are happy to trust our members to take a view on what they believe will best suit their businesses and their families.”