National Farmers' Union Scotland urge more farming engagement ahead of Brexit
Published:  20 June, 2017

The head of the National Farmers’ Union Scotland has called for more clarity and engagement with the farming industry as negotiations for Great Britain to leave the EU begin.

In a blog written on the eve of the Highland Show, NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker urged more engagement between government and the farming industry.

“A year on [from Britain voting to leave the EU], and there is still no clarity on what impact the decision to leave the EU will have on farming. Neither has there been any real discussion by the politicians on the trade-offs that will inevitably have to be made during the leaving discussions.

“EU leaders have unanimously backed and set out their guiding principles for the negotiations. The UK, in its letter to the European Commission (EC), set out its principles for the discussions. Michel Barnier, the EC’s Chief Negotiator, and David Davis, UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU have sat down across from each other. They will first agree the terms of the ‘divorce’ and then the future trading arrangements between the EU and the UK.”

Walker said the farming industry has yet to discover the full impact of leaving the EU will be.

“A year on, and the effects of this monumental decision have not yet been felt by the farming, food and drinks industry. The pound has weakened, which has given a lift to most prices, but in terms of trade and regulations we remain part of the EU for the time being. Both sides have set out some principles but this doesn’t give us any clarity on how things will look and operate once we leave.

“There is now 16 months of talks ahead. The aim is to end those talks by October 2018 and then for the UK to leave the EU in March 2019.”

According to Walker, the NFU Scotland has met with government but more needs to be done.

“Our engagement with government has been good but little detail has emerged from them that enables farmers and crofters to plan. But politicians and civil servants have been willing to listen to what it is that the farming industry needs.
“Last week, I met with a representative from the EC’s Brexit taskforce who is dealing specifically with agricultural matters. We will continue to have discussions with the EC’s Brexit taskforce through the negotiations.

It is important that our government works collegiately across the political spectrum, with industry and with the UK farming unions. The emphasis of the Brexit negotiations must be on the economic considerations. Change is inevitable, but change must be managed, not chaotic.”

After the opening of Brexit negotiations on June 19, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said discussions so far had been “productive” and both sides had been “constructive”.

“... We agreed that we stand a much greater chance of success if our teams work together as that’s been demonstrated today,” said Davis, as reported by the Department for Exiting the EU. “Nowhere is this more true than on the important issues around the rights of our citizens — where I am happy to report there is much common ground.”

He said both parties were keen to secure certainty for EU citizens about their UK status. He said he and his team planned to publish a detailed paper outlining their aims in the negotiation next Monday (26 June).

“There is a long way to go, but we are off to a promising start,” Davis said. “We have taken the first, critical steps together. Now, we have a shared responsibility to deliver quick and substantive progress.”

The EC’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier welcomed the start of negotiations. “This first session was useful to start off on the right foot ... Today, we agreed on dates. We agreed on organisation. We agreed on priorities for the negotiation.

“In a first step, we will deal with the most pressing issues. We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit. We want to make sure that the withdrawal of the UK happens in an orderly manner. Then, in a second step, we will scope our future relationship.”

Barnier said it was in the interests of the EU and the UK to work together for each other’s mutual benefit. “For both the EU and the UK, a fair deal is possible and far better than no deal. That is why we will work all the time with the UK, and never against the UK.

“There will be no hostility on my side. I will display a constructive attitude, firmly based on the interest and support of the 27.”