Brexit confusion, says UFU President

Friday, 22 February, 2019

After another week of Brexit confusion Ulster Farmers Union president, Ivor Ferguson, says he hopes trade and agriculture are not being used as political footballs. Mr Ferguson was speaking from the National Farmers Union annual general meeting in England, where the DEFRA minister, Michael Gove, said tariffs would be imposed on food imports.

“This means that in a single week we have had complete opposite suggestions of what might happen.  We have seen suggestions that in a bid to secure trade deals the government will allow a significant volume of tariff free beef in from South America. Then, when speaking to a farming audience, Mr Gove suggested all imports would face tariffs. Both these claims cannot be right,” said Mr Ferguson, adding that with weeks to go until when Brexit is due to happen farmers deserve honesty and clarity from politicians.

The UFU president said matters were further confused by the former Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, saying recently that the cabinet had already agreed to avoid tariffs on food to prevent prices rising. This was on grounds that the government did not want price rises to be blamed on a no deal Brexit.

In the heated atmosphere of Westminster, we never know whether a commitment is for real, or issued with another purpose. The UFU president said it was unfortunate that the focus had shifted from the opportunities a well negotiated Brexit could bring to the smoke and mirror of politics and the overwhelming need for the government to secure political agreement for its Withdrawal Bill. 

“It is being held to ransom by a group of aggressively pro-Brexit backbenchers – and farmers are losing out because they cannot plan and have lost faith in political assurances,” said Mr Ferguson.