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Farmers and Crofters Look to UK Government to Step Up the Pace on Brexit

Calls for clarity on funding, trade and labour

Nine months from the UK’s expected departure from the European Union and Scotland’s farmers and crofters remain in the dark over crucial details on Scottish agriculture’s funding package; our likely trading arrangements with Europe and access to non-UK permanent and seasonal labour.

The Union has had an unprecedented level of engagement with Westminster politicians and officials since the Brexit vote was taken two years ago.  That has generated valuable dialogue that must be built on.

Ongoing dialogue with Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove and Scottish Secretary of State David Mundell continued at the Royal Highland Show near Edinburgh today (21 June).  Several Scottish MPs will also visit the Union’s stand over the next four days.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “Scotland emerges from the shadow of the CAP in nine months’ time but crucial decisions that will affect the well-being of the nation’s farmers, crofters and food and drink sector remain in limbo.

“Our primary producers are having to take business decisions now that will not come into fruition until well after the UK has left the European Union and there is growing frustration and anger that they are making those decisions in a void.

“We have been absolutely clear in our demands and our CHANGE documents produced in recent times have been generated after an unprecedented level of engagement with our membership on their vision for the future.

“Building the right policy framework for Scottish agriculture must remain in Scotland’s hands. That process took a step forward yesterday with the announcement of Scottish Government’s consultation on post-Brexit agricultural policy.  Many of the themes around stability, transition, support and simplification chime with our views.

“However, Scotland’s ability to deliver will be regulated by whatever financial package comes our way.  Budgets based on existing CAP spend are guaranteed to the end of this Parliament.  We need reassurances on budgets beyond that period and confirmation that Scottish agriculture’s share will be ring-fenced.

“When considering budgets, it must be taken into consideration that Westminster’s decisions on delivering the convergence uplift robbed Scotland of £160 million in support which the European Union intended to address Scotland’s lower support rates per hectare.  Mr Gove’s commitment to convergence review has been kicked into the long grass but that must be addressed in the next few months. Further delay is unacceptable.

“On labour, NFU Scotland has already established that almost every soft fruit, flower and vegetable unit in Scotland experienced difficulties in recruiting labour in 2017 and, although we are early in the season, reports on permanent and seasonal staff shortages are already coming through.

“These highly specialised sectors rely heavily on thousands of non-UK workers having the ability to come to the UK to carry out, and move between, jobs on farms as harvests complete throughout the season.

“It is a serious concern for the Union that with post-Brexit immigration arrangements unknown alongside the lack of a seasonal workers scheme, Scottish growers will only find it more and more difficult to recruit their much-needed permanent and seasonal workforce over the next few years.

“As we leave the EU, it is also going to be more and more important that we encourage non-EU workers to come over and join Scottish workforces. We need to be making it easier for seasonal workers from across the board.

“It is deeply disappointing that our proposal that the UK Government introduce a scheme similar to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, continues to fall on deaf ears. Failure to address this will see Scottish crops go unpicked for a second successive season and this is an issue NFUS has outlined to the Home Office, Defra and the Scotland Office in writing on multiple occasions.

 “Away from the excellent relationship our industry has with other parts of the UK, free and frictionless trade with our major trading partner, the EU, is crucial to our producers and our food and drink sector.  

“The importance of securing preferential and beneficial trade arrangements with the EU, at least until Government can replace them with acceptable alternative arrangements, continues to go unaddressed and simply adds to the uncertainty that Scotland’s farmers and crofters are weighed down by.

“This Highland Show provides a platform for the UK Government to take a lead and provide answers to farmers and crofters on these issues and we hope ministers make the most of this important opportunity.”

Notes to Editors

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 84/18


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