In a momentous week of successive votes on Brexit and a challenging period for the UK government, NFU Scotland has returned to Westminster to meet with MPs and government officials to discuss Brexit.

NFU Scotland has been in Westminster on a monthly basis since summer 2017, pushing its key Brexit priorities of free and frictionless trade; access to a non-UK workforce; and a new agricultural policy that works for Scottish farmers and crofters.

President, Andrew McCornick; Vice President, Martin Kennedy; Director of Policy and Member Services, Jonnie Hall; and Political Affairs Manager Clare Slipper held a series of meetings with officials at Defra, the Scottish Conservative group of MPs and SNP MPs today (Wednesday 18 July).

The meetings fell hard on the heels of the UK Government’s White Paper on the future UK/EU relationship which was published last Thursday. Engaging with MPs on the White Paper, NFU Scotland’s preferred negotiating position of Single Market and Customs Union membership is not on the table.  However, the Union recognises that the government’s proposals – in particular, the creation of a free trade area for agri-food goods – may be the best that the UK can achieve in the time left available to strike a deal.  The Union has called on MPs to support the position.

Speaking from London, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “The agreed position which emerged last week is positive for Scottish agriculture. In particular, the commitment to achieve a free trade area for agri-food shows that the consistent lobbying of NFUS has been heeded.
 “Since the outcome of the referendum, NFUS has consistently argued for free and frictionless trade with the EU. The proposals within the White Paper suggest that the Prime Minister has stretched the political elastic to achieve something as close as possible to the Customs Union as she can. With the Brexit clock ticking, we must all get behind this plan as ‘no deal’ is simply not an option.
“In our discussions with MPs today, we also highlighted the importance of the UK Government maintaining a strong position on Geographical Indicators (GIs).  GIs are extremely important for many Scottish producers who go above and beyond to produce premium products such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb.
“The recognition of their importance within the White Paper is welcome, however important detail is needed on how a new UK scheme for GIs will work alongside the existing EU scheme. In addition, NFUS is pushing for a commitment from UK Government that protection of GIs will be built in to any future negotiating position for new free trade arrangements with third countries.”

On Wednesday, NFU Scotland also met with officials at Defra for an update on the UK Government’s forthcoming Agriculture Bill, where it discussed the policy measures proposed in NFU Scotland’s own ‘Steps to Change’ document and the importance of the forthcoming legislation giving flexibility and scope for Scottish Government to develop the right future policy for Scottish food producers.

Reflecting on the discussions, Vice President Martin Kennedy said: “The UK Government’s forthcoming Agriculture Bill presents the first opportunity in a generation for farmers and crofters to develop a new policy framework for UK agriculture. From the outset, NFUS has called for flexibility to be instilled within the future agricultural policy framework to ensure the four governments of the UK can develop the right policies for their food producers.
“Whilst the political nature of negotiations on frameworks has hindered common agreement on how the frameworks will operate, NFUS is encouraged that there does seem to be agreement between the UK and Scottish governments on the principles governing the new Scottish agricultural policy.
 “Today’s discussions focused once again on the principles of environmental benefits, productivity improvements and financial stability as set out in NFU Scotland’s policy document ‘Steps to Change’, and how these principles complement the proposals that were in the Defra Health and Harmony Command Paper earlier this year.
“MPs will break for their summer recess next week, but with just over 8 months to go until ‘exit day’ it is more important than ever that NFUS maintains a presence in London as well as within Scottish politics to ensure we get the best possible deal for Scottish farmers and crofters.” 

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