NPA chairman Richard Lister has sent an open letter to new Defra Secretary Michael Gove congratulating him on his new role and outlining the association’s position on Brexit.
The letter stresses the NPA’s desire to remain inside the Customs Union, as the Government appears to consider a softer approach, after last week’s disappointing election results.
In the letter, Mr Lister writes: “We look forward to working with you as Secretary of State during what will possibly be the most challenging period British Agriculture has faced as we will need an experienced and confident hand to ensure the best outcome from the Brexit negotiations.”
He outlines the value of the UK pig sector to the UK economy – £1.2 billion at the farm-gate, £5 billion at retail level and over £7.5 billion in total – and adds:
“Continued trading relationships with established global partners are therefore paramount, as is the need for frictionless trade with the European Union.
“Even if we are forced to leave the Single Market, retaining membership of the Customs Union remains an absolute priority for my organisation, as it does across the agricultural sector. We are also clear that any trade deals forged outside the EU must include measures to protect British producers and consumers from imports produced to lower standards.
“Our other key Brexit priority is ensuring we retain access to EU labour, particularly permanent staff, without which our industry could not operate as it does today.
The UK pig sector is unsubsidised and therefore not fettered by the Common Agricultural Policy. As a result, our increasingly integrated supply chains are market focused and driven to deliver what the consumer wants.
“Our members still have challenges however which we strive to resolve for them, working closely with Defra and its agencies at all levels. Defra and how it prepares for and embraces all forthcoming challenges is pivotal to the future success and profitability of UK agriculture. Continued close Government engagement with industry throughout the Brexit process and beyond is vital, and we stand ready to play our part.”
Mr Lister concludes by inviting Mr Gove to ‘walk the chain’ to help him derive to a fuller understanding of the workings of the pig sector.
The NPA’s manifesto, attached in the letter to Mr Gove, can be viewed here