A group of 14 farming organisations has called on the UK governments to work with devolved administrations and the agricultural industry to pave the way for a new post-Brexit free trade agreement.
In a joint statement the organisations, which include farmers’ unions, landowner and tenant farmer groups as well as beef, sheep and pig associations, urge the UK Government to provide short-term certainty for the industry as exiting the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy draws closer.
They appeal to Defra to establish a new long-standing free trade agreement which retains and grows opportunities for food trade with the EU and the rest of the world. And they also call for commitments on transition that will see the UK remain in the Customs Union until a full free trade agreement is in place with the EU.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) president, Andrew McCornick, said farmers and land managers would benefit from new opportunities in trade and agricultural policy.
“However, we must take the necessary time to put in place the right trade agreements and to develop and robustly test a new policy that will support farming and the environment for the long-term,” he said.
“We need our governments to work together with us to establish a collaborative policy framework and common budget – which retains flexibility for the devolved administrations to deliver appropriate policies across the UK geared towards active, efficient and productive agriculture.”
Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) chairman Lord David Johnstone said there was a need for the sector in Scotland to change over the next decade and beyond, especially in the drive to increase business resilience. However he insisted that had to be accompanied by a gradual transition in terms of the support framework as the UK leaves the EU.
A Defra spokesperson said the Government was committed to getting the best possible deal when the UK leaves the EU in order to continue to have tariff-free frictionless access for goods and services into the European market.
He added: “Leaving the EU provides us with a golden opportunity to set up new frameworks for supporting our farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food. We will work with all those who have an interest in the future of food and farming as we develop a new approach that works for our industry.”