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Parliamentary Officer's Blog - 9 June 2017

If today’s (9 June) General Election result isn’t a lesson in not taking voters for granted, then it’s difficult to know what is writes a bleary-eyed Parliamentary Officer Clare Slipper.

Then again, uncertainty is the new norm – it’s two weeks less a year since the country woke up to the news that the referendum result would take the UK out of Europe.

At that time, NFU Scotland wrote that the role of the Union in representing members’ views and protecting their interests had never been more important. That remains just as true today.

What we know is that the election has returned a hung parliament result, with no party winning enough seats to take them over the 325 threshold to form a majority government. The Conservatives have won the largest share of seats, but there will be no joy in Number 10 this morning as the Prime Minister, Theresa May, mulls over the harsh reality that she took a gamble, and has lost spectacularly.

As things stand this morning, it looks likely that Mrs May will remain in Number 10 and will seek to form a government leaning heavily – albeit reluctantly – on Northern Ireland’s ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs in order to form an administration.
 
An alternative, yet unlikely, prospect could be another Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition – unlikely because of the Liberal Democrats fiercely pro-EU stance and the party’s experience in the 2010-15 coalition. 

And, of course, the Labour party – buoyed by a successful campaign and a ‘Corbyn bounce’ – set out their willingness to form a minority administration early doors this morning.

Whatever the outcome, it does seem as though the hung parliament result will have a significant impact on Brexit talks, which are reportedly due to start in Brussels in the next ten days.
 
Indeed, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has already Tweeted this morning to suggest that he won’t begin negotiations until “the UK is ready” and he’s sure he’s dealing with the right person and the right offer that is being put on the table.
 
A further consideration is that, as the Conservatives will have to lean on the support of other parties in order to pass votes and formulate the negotiating stance, it could be out with the previous ‘hard Brexit’ line, and in with the soft – an outcome which will have significant implications for the farming sector, if it means staying within the EU Single Market or not.
 
With the Article 50 clock already ticking, NFU Scotland remains crystal clear that Brexit is the biggest challenge facing farming. Our members want to know what will happen now with the proposed Great Repeal Bill, the timescale on Brexit talks and where commitments given by all the parties during the election on policies to support food and farming now sit. We need a clear and early signal that the interests of agriculture in the right deal on trade, labour and support will be recognised.

In the past year, NFU Scotland has engaged with more UK Government ministers and parliamentarians than ever before. We will remain on the front foot by building on this constant Brexit dialogue with policy-makers of all colours and from all administrations.

Next week, NFU Scotland will be back in Brussels engaging with fellow farming Unions and Commission officials on Brexit. And at the Royal Highland Show, we have secured meetings with an impressive line-up of government figures and the new and returning crop of MPs.

It will be challenging times ahead. Central to NFU Scotland’s message will be ensuring that all governments recognise the diversity of Scottish agriculture and the contribution it makes to the Scottish economy and communities, as it takes forward its vision for the United Kingdom and Brexit. 

It’s time to get on with business.

Author: Clare Slipper

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About The Author

Clare Slipper

Clare Slipper joined NFU Scotland in 2014 as the Union’s first dedicated Parliamentary Officer. Within her role, Clare briefs politicians in the Scottish, Westminster and European parliaments on key issues impacting Scottish food producers and represents members interests in the policy-making process. Clare started her career working for a public affairs and communications agency, where she worked with clients in the renewable energy and planning sectors. She graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Politics and Sociology in 2012.

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