Theresa May sits down to talk about future of farming at Welsh Winter Fair

Prime Minister Theresa May was among the many visitors through the gates on the second day of the Royal Welsh Winter Fair today.

The show is one of the most popular agricultural events in Wales and showcases an array of trade stands as well as cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and poultry.

Mrs. May arrived at around 10:00am and met with farmers, NFU Cymru, and the Farmers’ Union of Wales as well as some small business owners.

A meeting with union leaders and key stakeholders covered a wide range of issues including the UK’s future trading relationship with the European Union, animal welfare and production standards, as well as support for young farmers.

FUW president Glyn Roberts told the Prime Minister longer-term assurances were needed for Welsh agriculture.

Speaking after the meeting, Roberts said: “The Withdrawal agreement agreed by the Cabinet and the EU contains more than 600 pages of details regarding what would happen during a 21-month period, and those pages contain many important assurances for agriculture and other industries.

By comparison, the political declaration which is part of the same package and concerns what might happen in the subsequent decades is just 36 pages long, and far more ambiguous in terms of the implications for agriculture and other industries.

“We fully understand why that is the case, but 21 months will go by very quickly, and I made it clear to Mrs. May we really need assurances from the UK Government about their commitment to using that time to work out a deal which is positive for Welsh and UK agriculture.”

Roberts said statements by Government Ministers and politicians about trade deals which would open up the UK to imports of cheap food produced to far lower standards than those required in the UK were a cause for significant concern.

“An additional 21 months of stability would be welcome, but we also need a commitment that after that period we will not open the floodgates to lower quality imports and that maintaining access to the EU market where most of our exports go will be a priority.

“The FUW has been consistent in its view that the best way to minimise disruption and economic damage to agriculture and other industries is to remain within the Single Market and the Customs Union after leaving the EU.

“Anything that falls short of that will bring with it obstacles in terms of trade and other issues, with inevitable consequences for our industry and economy.”

‘A positive meeting’

Also at the meeting, NFU Cymru president John Davies said it had been a “positive meeting”.

NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones added: “This morning’s meeting also presented an excellent opportunity for us to reiterate to the Prime Minister that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario would leave Welsh farmers in the nightmare situation of being excluded from our largest export market.

“Around a third of the Welsh lamb crop is exported and over 90% of this goes to the EU27. A ‘no-deal’ Brexit would essentially price Welsh farmers out of the market – we could not operate effectively when imposed with WTO tariff rates, as well as being subject to the regulatory barriers that come with exporting as a third country.

We understand that there are still significant political hurdles for the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals to clear and if such approval is not secured then NFU Cymru will need to reassess its position.

“In the meantime, we strongly encourage politicians across all parties to put their political differences aside to secure a future that is in the interest of the £7 billion Welsh food and farming sector.”