Boris Johnson has pledged to “get Brexit done” by 31 January “no ifs, no buts,” in his victory speech after a landslide victory for the Conservatives.
Yesterday’s election (12 December) saw the Conservative Party win 43.6 per cent of the vote.
Farming organisations have welcomed the greater degree of security offered by the election result, and urged the government to understand and value the importance of British food and farming.
NFU president Minette Batters pointed out that in just 50 days’ time, the UK could embark on its first trade negotiations for decades.
She said the government must urgently set up a Trade and Standards Commission so they can work with the industry and stakeholders to ensure the high standards of British farming are not “undermined by imported food which would fail to meet our own domestic regulations and values surrounding animal welfare, environmental standards and traceability”.
President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Mark Bridgeman, said that many will “breathe a sigh of relief that this result at least brings a degree of political certainty”, but the idea of Brexit ending on 31 January “is wrong”.
He noted that if we leave the EU in January, there will be less than a year to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Europe, or a no-deal Brexit will be back on the table.
“With a stable government in place, at least the Prime Minister can negotiate with a greater degree of strength than before the election,” Mr Bridgeman added.
“We will do what we can to help Government negotiate comprehensive agreements not just with the EU but across the world. But Government needs to earn the trust of rural communities by guaranteeing that UK farmers will not be undercut by cheap imports produced to lower standards.”
National Sheep Association’s president Phil Stocker also called on the Prime Minister to deliver on promises, noting that with a stable government, with the strongest mandate the country has seen in decades, “we can be sure at least the first layer of uncertainty has been removed”.
He said the NSA will play its part in ensuring promises are fulfilled, including reaching a free trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020, no restrictions/hurdles relating to movement of goods between the mainland and Northern Ireland, and protection from cheaper, lower value products entering the UK market.
Mr Stocker also appealed for continuity in farming and related ministers, and for further discussion on proposals of concern, such as limiting farmers to only selling stock to their most local abattoir, and the suggested ban on live animal exports.
Minette Batters concluded: “Britain needs the new government to back British farming like never before; to invest in domestic food production so we can increase our productivity, create more jobs and deliver more for the environment.”