Brexit day signals fresh lobbying impetus

Jonnie Hall, NFUS director of policy.

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Following more than three political stagnation, the UK left the European Union last Friday (January 31).

While NFU Scotland members will have a period of ‘business as usual’ to December 31, 2020, uncertainty beyond that date remains unresolved.

For NFU Scotland, the hard work of ensuring farming’s priorities are central to discussions on trade, labour, future agricultural funding and policy in the new era becomes the lobbying priority.

That will see the union build on relationships established through regular engagement at Westminster with the Prime Minister’s office, Treasury, Defra, the Scotland Office and the Department of International Trade in recent years.

NFU Scotland will also build on the good work it has already undertaken with Scottish Government on the priorities for a future agricultural support system as we transition from the Common Agricultural Policy, after 47 years.

As part of its intensive lobbying work, NFUS will be setting out shortly its proposals for Scottish agricultural support measures to instil certainty and confidence in the 2021 to 2024 period when the operating environment may remain turbulent.

While nothing will change overnight, preparedness is key and NFU Scotland has also updated its advice pages for members on the website

Speaking from Westminster, ahead of a meeting with Treasury on future funding, director of policy Jonnie Hall said: ‘The hard work already undertaken will intensify as we pull every lever that we can to ensure Scottish agriculture, and the extremely high standards we produce to, are upheld long into the future.

‘Almost 43 months of uncertainty have finally concluded and the key message for Scotland’s farmers and crofters is that nothing will change overnight. However, negotiations in the coming months will be defining.

‘The UK is now entering a transition phase out of the EU, during which time the terms of the future trading relationship with the EU will be negotiated, working towards a December 31, 2020, deadline. In parallel, the UK Government will also commence with an independent trading policy with new third countries.

‘Recognition of our world leading standards, backed by the creation of a Standards Commission, are crucial if we are to avoid exposure to imports produced to standards that are unacceptable here.

‘The transition phase will also be of vital importance to the many members of the Scottish food and farming sectors who employ workers from outside the UK. The UK Government will create a new system of immigration which will commence on January 1, 2021, and NFU Scotland is lobbying as hard as ever to ensure that there are pathways available in the new system for the agri-food sector to employ manually skilled seasonal and permanent workers to undertake essential roles in the sector.

‘This next phase will be challenging for all, but we must also see opportunity in this new era. NFU Scotland is ideally placed build on the good work it has already undertaken with Scottish Government on the priorities for a future agricultural support system that allows farms and crofts to become more profitable, productive and deliver on their responsibilities to the environment and climate.’