With the latest round of Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU underway, the next 50 days are critical to the future fortunes of many Scottish food and farming businesses, and the jobs they support.
NFU Scotland has, since the Brexit vote more than four years ago, consistently argued that agriculture can flourish outside the EU if certain key requirements are met. They include:
Avoiding a ‘no deal’ outcome and any short-term political and economic turmoil
Ensuring as free trade in agri-food goods as possible with the EU market
Gaining greater regulatory control and discretion over UK farm practice
Maintaining access to seasonal and permanent workers required by the UK food chain
With the transition period ending on 31 December 2020, a catastrophic ‘no deal’ remains a possibility unless a deal is agreed and ratified in the next seven weeks. While apparent that significant differences remain between the UK and EU, NFUS is reminding negotiators and governments that the future stability and prosperity of the agriculture sector is incumbent on a favourable future relationship agreement being found.
The call comes as NFU Scotland Vice President Charlie Adam is scheduled to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee tomorrow (Thursday 12 November) on the agricultural sector’s priorities for the future relationship and the negotiations.
It also follows NFUS joining with leading Scottish food and drink sector groups in writing to the Prime Minister last week, calling on the UK Government to take specific actions to support the food and drink sector in adjusting to a new operating environment outside the EU – deal or no deal.
As the end of transition looms large, NFUS is also encouraging its members to make use of its online step-by-step guide to Brexit preparedness to ensure that they have put all possible arrangements in place and are aware of the available government guidance.
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said
There have been multiple ‘crunch’ moments in the long history of EU withdrawal and future relationship negotiations, but seven weeks from the end of transition, we are now at the wire. The uncertainty is crippling. We are hearing from a growing number of members deeply concerned about what the future may hold for them.
As an organisation representing 8,500 farmers, crofters and growers across Scotland, we continue to do all we can to encourage business preparedness through the available guidance and resources. However, the reality is that that the future is difficult to prepare for when there is still so little clarity on what our relationship will be with the UK’s largest trading partner.
Last week, NFUS joined with 11 organisations representing the Scottish food and drink sector to press the Prime Minister on the perilous situation facing this iconic sector due to continued uncertainty and the threat of a ‘no deal’.
We believe it is vital that the UK Government works constructively with the sector to ensure there are adequate safeguards, deal or no deal, that allow the sector to adjust to the new operating environment, whatever that may be.
Since the outset, NFUS has been crystal clear that there are opportunities from Brexit so long as the sector can operate within favourable trade, immigration and support policies. At this crunch moment, we need the UK Government to heed the needs of food and drink producers. They are of key strategic importance to the future health and prosperity of this nation.