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East region's farm leaders warn of serious harm to sector if 'no deal' Brexit goes ahead

PUBLISHED: 17:05 16 January 2019

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington  Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington Picture: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX

Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd.

Worried East Anglian farmers' leaders warned that a 'no deal' Brexit would have a 'serious impact' on rural businesses as the political crisis deepened following a crushing defeat for prime minister Theresa May's European Union (EU) exit strategy.

Ben Underwood is taking over as eastern region director of the Country Land and Business Association  Picture: SU ANDERSONBen Underwood is taking over as eastern region director of the Country Land and Business Association Picture: SU ANDERSON

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) regional director Rachel Carrington said the House of Commons decision to reject the deal heightened concerns a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could be on the cards, an outcome that she warned would have “a serious impact on farm businesses in Suffolk and Essex and harm the country’s ability to produce home-grown food”.

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Country Land and Business East regional director Ben Underwood said the rural economy needed urgent clarity.

“Losing the vote at this critical stage means rural businesses continue to face significant uncertainty on the nature of the UK’s departure from the EU,” he said. “With Brexit less than three months away we need urgent clarity from the Prime Minister on her next steps and how she plans to deliver a Brexit which provides the opportunities that leaving the EU presents, whilst ensuring no harm to farming, the rural economy and communities across the countryside. This must include the free and frictionless trade between the UK and EU, on which many rural businesses depend.”

Sheep farmers are warning of dire effects on their businesses if the UK crashes out of Europe with no deal   Picture: GREGG BROWNSheep farmers are warning of dire effects on their businesses if the UK crashes out of Europe with no deal Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ms Carrington said the uncertainty was already “proving so damaging for business confidence and investment decisions throughout the food and farming industry”. “We’ve been clear that reaching a Brexit deal is a priority, one that allows for free and frictionless trade with the EU, our biggest trading partner. We’ll be maintaining close contact with the region’s MPs as events unfold, to ensure that farming’s voice is heard and recognised across parliament.”

National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executie Phil Stock said the situation was “very concerning”. “Right now the only thing we know is that we are heading closer and closer to a no deal, something we know would be extremely damaging for sheep farming and for our wider agricultural industry.”

NFU president Minette Batters said a no-deal Brexit appeared increasingly likely. “I have been clear that such an exit would simply be catastrophic for Britain and its food and farming sector,” she said.

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