The next UK Parliament

Commodity watch by UFU parliamentary officer Alexander Kinnear.

Predicting the future should be avoided, however, with certainty we can now predict that the next UK Parliament will be very different to the last. The national UK debate during the election had little focus on agriculture and food security. However, with the final results of the elections confirmed, Labour has a massive majority which will change the dynamic of the politics of agriculture. Whilst agriculture policy is devolved to the NI Executive, the budget for farmers and esteem to which they are held in a UK wide context, will be set at Westminster. The role of the four UK farming unions will be to work with those elected to highlight the challenges the industry faces and how best to maximise the opportunities.

During the election the Ulster Farmers’ Union put forward three keys asks:

  1. Regarding the future support and development budget our ask is simple, we need an inflation-proofed budget to meet the needs of the financial climate of 2024 with at least a ten-year commitment.
  2. On the UK’s relationship with Europe, our ask is that the next UK government urgently seeks a sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)/ veterinary agreement between the entire UK and EU, based on the principles of equivalence and alignment. Significant progress has been made over outstanding issues between the UK and EU post Brexit, under the agreement and roll out of the Windsor Framework. However, many Brexit issues remain unresolved such as access to veterinary medicines and plant protection products, with the added threat of divergence for NI between GB and the EU now a reality for many sectors in agriculture.
  3. Providing food and energy for the nation is at the very heart of what we do. Our ask is that legislative targets are introduced to safeguard current domestic food production in the UK, including NI’s role in feeding over 10 million people, and realise the potential for on-farm renewables to assist in providing energy for the nation.

The basis of UFU lobbying at Westminster over the next five years will be focused on the three keys asks, with one of the most vital aspects in securing a financial outcome for farmers that is fit for 2024 and beyond. With a review of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement approaching, it will provide one last opportunity to rectify outstanding Brexit issues. Legislative targets exist for the UK to achieve net zero by 2050, so why not legislate to safeguard the UK’s domestic food and energy supply?

Closer to home many NI seats have changed hands. This will require the UFU to demonstrate respect for the manifestos on which MPs have been elected, but also to work with new MPs to build and strengthen relationships. Much of this groundwork has already been completed as many newly elected MPs have previously been MLAs.

Whilst every election outcome is clearly important, the decisions taken over the next five years will provide the basis on which agriculture proceeds for the next generation.