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In a crunch week for the UK Government on its Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, NFU Scotland has returned to Westminster to meet key decision-makers to discuss the progress of the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill, and the priorities of its members from the EU/UK draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.
Director of policy Jonnie Hall and political affairs manager Clare Slipper visited the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland, Lord Duncan, as well as MPs and members of the House of Lords in a day of meetings in Westminster on Tuesday December 4.
The UK Government’s Agriculture Bill is completing its first stages in the House of Commons, where NFU Scotland has had success in achieving Defra’s agreement to an amendment which will establish a mechanism to repatriate red meat levy funding to Quality Meat Scotland.
With the Bill shortly moving to the Lords, NFU Scotland held discussions with cross-party members of the House of Lords in order to highlight further UK-wide areas of the Bill which it would like to see amendments on.
These areas include the creation of a multi-annual financial framework for agricultural policy payments, which would provide longer-term certainty for claimants and would protect the agricultural budget from discretionary spending decisions.
NFU Scotland also supports amendments to the Bill which will ensure food production and food security are at its heart, and which would protect food producers in Scotland and the UK from the threat of cheaper imports brought in under new trade deals with third countries that have been produced to a lower standard than the standards which domestic producers are proud to champion.
Mr Hall said: ‘NFU Scotland stands with the majority of business and industry organisations in that a no deal Brexit outcome must be avoided at all costs. That is why it is important that at this crunch point in the negotiations MPs on all sides recognise how much is at stake if we do not strike a deal on the UK’s exit from the EU.
‘While the coming days of debate in the Commons and the parliamentary vote on December 11 were dripping in politics, it is important that NFU Scotland maintains its presence in front of Westminster decision-makers to remind them of the interests of our members as they vote on the deal and as other Brexit legislation proceeds through parliament.
‘From the outset of the referendum result, NFU Scotland has maintained that a good deal for its 8,500 members will be one that delivers free and frictionless trade with the EU, ensures equivalence in the standard of imports, allows non-UK workers to come to Scotland to work in seasonal and permanent positions, and gives Scottish ministers the tools to develop and implement a new agricultural policy in Scotland that is genuinely fit to our unique landscapes and farming systems.
‘NFU Scotland has spent more days than ever before in London over the past few months, making a strong case for its members. We will not relent on these objectives, in this the UK Government’s crunch week and beyond.’