The Farmers’ Union of Wales says the need to negotiate unfettered access to EU markets should not be eclipsed in the fallout from the General Elections, and must return as a key focus for politicians.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We had expected these elections to focus on Brexit and issues such as whether the next UK Government should pursue a hard or soft Brexit, but campaigns quickly became dominated by important domestic issues.
“But all domestic policies will ultimately be influenced or constrained by the outcome of the Brexit process, because our economic future depends on securing positive trading arrangements with the EU.”
Mr Roberts said that whatever turmoil and uncertainty was unleashed by the General Election result, politicians should not lose focus on the need for such a trading arrangement.
“Around two thirds of identifiable Welsh exports go to EU countries, while many major employers base their companies here specifically because we have access to the EU’s 500 million consumers without the costs and hindrance of border controls and World Trade Organisation tariffs.
“As an industry, Welsh agriculture is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of losing access to the affluent mainland European markets which are on our doorstep; a third of Welsh lamb is exported to the continent, and the loss of access to the EU market in 1996, 2001 and 2007 caused catastrophic collapses in farm incomes from which many businesses did not recover.”
Mr Roberts said concerns over the impact of Brexit were a key issue in terms of bringing many younger people to the polls, and that these concerns should be taken on board.
The triggering of Article 50 on March 29 has placed significant constrictions on the time during which vast volumes of work must be done, and Mr Roberts said the outcome of the election places yet more pressures on that timetable.
“Our Manifesto argued for options to be pursued which would allow a smooth transition over a safe timescale, and that is now more critical than ever,” added Mr Roberts.
Mr Roberts further said EU Member States could agree to more time to negotiate beyond the two year Article 50 Brexit period, and that to seek such an agreement made sense given the mountain of work and potential risks which lay ahead.
“We now look to politicians from all political parties to work together constructively in Parliament to secure the best possible outcome of Brexit, and as smooth a transition to that outcome as possible,” he added.