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Brexit breakthrough eases farmers' fears of a no-deal 'catastrophe'

PUBLISHED: 13:09 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 17 October 2019

The prime minister's Brexit deal has been welcomed by CLA East regional director Ben Underwood.  Picture: SEAN DILLOW

The prime minister's Brexit deal has been welcomed by CLA East regional director Ben Underwood. Picture: SEAN DILLOW

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Farmers and rural business leaders have welcomed the prime minister's Brexit breakthrough - and urged MPs to "think very carefully before voting this deal down".

The agricultural industry has repeatedly voiced concerns about the "catastrophic" consequences of a no-deal Brexit, including a trade tariff regime which threatened to bring cheap, low-quality food imports flooding into the UK market and forcing farmers out of business.

The deal agreed today between Boris Johnson and EU negotiators would remove that immediate risk, and open the door to future free trade deals which farming groups have demanded.

But it still needs the approval of both the UK and the European parliaments, and the Democratic Unionist Party has said it cannot support the deal "as it stands".

Ben Underwood, East Anglia's regional director for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA): "News of a deal will be warmly welcomed by farmers and rural businesses, many of whom were fearing the consequences of a 'no deal' scenario. The proposed deal finally provides us with some certainty, that could in turn help unlock much needed investment to get the rural economy moving again.

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"Opposition MPs, many of whom have argued against a hard Brexit, should think very carefully before voting this deal down. One gets the sense that it's this deal or no deal".

READ MORE: Half of farms could go bust after a no-deal Brexit, claims shock report

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said: "The NFU is pleased to see that the UK and EU negotiators have come to an agreement on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, which might pave the way for an orderly Brexit and the avoidance of leaving without a deal.

"However, we must remember that if this deal is agreed by UK and EU parliaments in the coming days, it only determines how the UK withdraws from the EU and does not determine the long-term future of the UK's and EU's relationship.

"It is vital that government has a long-term aspiration to ensure that British farming standards are not undercut by an ambition to open up British markets to food which would be illegal to produce here and that there is free and frictionless trade with the EU in the long term.

"We have had precious little reassurances on these issues so far and we look to government to be clear about its ambitions for British farming, which provides affordable, safe home-grown food produced to some of the highest standards in the world."

Norfolk NFU chairman Nick Deane added: "There is a deal on the table, which means we can now have an orderly exit from where we are now. It must be a good thing to avoid the ridiculous situation of the tariffs they wanted to enforce.

"We would call on our MPs to look really seriously at this deal and consider accepting it because it has got to better than a no-deal scenario which would be pretty fatal for agriculture."

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