The continued uncertainty over the future of the UK is having a damaging impact on farming businesses, the UK farming unions warned following the latest setback for Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
MPs voted by 391 to 242 votes to reject the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal Agreement last night, meaning there is now less clarity than ever over the UK’s future, including its vital trading relations. There will be a vote to tonight on whether to leave the EU without a deal on March 29. If, as expected, that notion is rejected, there will be a further vote on Thursday about whether to request an extension of Article 50 from the European Commission.
Following last night’s vote, the presidents of the UK’s four farming unions urged MPs to take whatever measures are necessary to remove the possibility of leaving the EU without an agreement, whether on March 29 or at any other point in the future.
In a joint statement, NFU President Minette Batters, NFU Cymru President John Davies, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick and Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ivor Ferguson said:“The outcome of the vote means there is no realistic possibility of achieving an orderly departure from the EU on March 29. A no deal exit from the EU would be a catastrophe for British farming and food production.
“Therefore some sort of extension of the Article 50 deadline will be necessary. It is critical that the Government and MPs identify a clear strategy to secure Parliament’s support for a negotiated Brexit deal between the UK and the EU and use any extension of Article 50 constructively. We cannot simply delay the prospect of no deal.
“This continued uncertainty is having real world consequences on farming businesses – and wider British industry – already. It is time for MPs to consider the concessions they will need to accommodate to support a deal that finally brings to an end the enormous and damaging uncertainty that is already undermining our food and farming sectors.”
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright CBE described the result as ‘another body blow for the country and the UK’s largest manufacturing sector’.
“As we teeter on the brink of the cliff edge, just seventeen days’ away, confidence in our political leaders is almost gone,” he said.
“We can only hope that members of Parliament, tomorrow and on Thursday, will vote decisively – and act accordingly – to take a 29 March ‘no-deal’ exit off the table. We now need breathing space in which a clear way forward can be found.”