Chaotic Brexit plans must not be allowed to hit farm industry

SIR, — One of the most important industries in our local economy is the agri-food industry.

As chaotic Brexit negotiations continue, there is a need for farming and the agri-food industry to be protected. To safeguard our local industry, whether beef, dairy, grain, arable and mixed farming, it is quite clear we need to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs  (DAERA) officials, in conjunction with the local industry, produced a document to lead the way on agricultural matters many months ago, outlining the requirements for the industry.

But this has not seen the light of day due to the failure to provide restored political institutions. There is now a clear need and urgency for devolved institutions to be restored and for a Minister to be appointed to act on those issues. Failure to do so would be acting against the interests of our farmers and agri-food industry.  

In addition, failure to address the needs of our agricultural industry in Brexit negotiations by the British government would be a severe dereliction of duty on their part — an industry that is valued by local consumers and the community.

Furthermore, as these Brexit negotiations continue, there is a clear need for a pathway to be found to support our agri-food industry to ensure our good food standards and farming practices are supported adhered to; that there is no undermining of our local food produce standards through cheap imports from other countries; that the funding support mechanism can be continued to financially support farmers and that there is a ready supply of labour and workers for the agri-food industry.  

All of this means that we need to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market and that there is continued free movement of goods, services, people and capital.

That is what is required to ensure our local agri-food industry thrives, is protected and is safeguarded and, above all, is able to provide for our local population and other regions.

I will continue to underline the clear importance of the agri-food industry to the local economy and to local consumers and in so doing urge the British Government and the DAERA to protect our most important industry.

Yours etc,


Former South Down MP.