Cereals 2017: Government must end Brexit uncertainty, says National Farmers’ Union president

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: NFU president Meurig Raymond.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: NFU president Meurig Raymond. - Credit: Archant

The government must end the uncertainty over what Brexit will mean for UK farming and take a 'collaborative and consensual' approach to its negotiations, East Anglian farmers were told.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. - Credit: Archant

The call was made by National Farmers' Union president Meurig Raymond as he opened the 2017 Cereals show in Lincolnshire, the major annual showcase for the arable industry.

The two-day event at Boothby Graffoe is expected to attract around 24,000 visitors from across the region to explore the latest farm technologies and crop varieties, or to debate topical issues with industry leaders in the conference marquee – where politics dominated the discussions.

Mr Raymond said, since he addressed the conference last year, the industry had been forced to deal with the uncertainties of an EU referendum, a new prime minister, two new Defra ministers and a general election.

After failing to win an outright majority, he hopes the government will now take a more collaborative stance as the NFU pursues its priorities of 'a post-Brexit trade deal with tariff-free and frictionless access to the single market, a domestic agricultural policy that does not disadvantage us against our competitors, and access to a competent and reliable workforce.'

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. - Credit: Archant


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Mr Raymond said: 'We are still – a whole year on from the Brexit referendum – little closer to knowing what future Brexit holds for us.

'The time has now come to end this uncertainty. With negotiations due to begin next week, it is time the UK government took a collaborative and consensual approach to Brexit. In fact, it's the only way forward. What we now need is for the government to work with a wide constituency of interested parties to get the best outcome for the UK, and one that best represents the views and interests of the country at large.

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'For agriculture, the sector that has the potential to be the most affected by Brexit, this means working with UK farming unions, the food chain and the farm supply chain.'

Mr Raymond said he had already spoken to new Defra secretary Michael Gove, and is due to meet him in person on Friday to discuss the needs of the farming industry.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. - Credit: Archant

'I had a good positive conversation on the phone for 40 minutes with Mr Gove yesterday,' he said. 'I told him I am looking for a champion for food and farming and I was heartened by what I heard.

'We have a very prominent member of the government. He has a high profile, and the journalists will be following him everywhere. He is highly ambitious and if you put all that together he is going to have to champion farming in the coming years.

'The policy advisers at Defra are going to be important, but as long as the secretary of state and his team go out and talk to farmers, that connection to the industry itself is the most important thing.'

Mr Raymond said the NFU would also continue to press Mr Gove to support British farming through other measures, including a commitment to continue the 25-year TB (bovine tuberculosis) eradication strategy, tackling the increasing problem of rural crime, and promoting British food at home and abroad.

More Cereals stories will follow on www.edp24.co.uk/business/farming.

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