Farmers and crofters look to British Government to ‘step up the pace’ on Brexit

Scottish farmers have called for clarity on funding, trade and labour post-Brexit, just nine months from the UK’s expected departure from the European Union.

Farmers and crofters say they “remain in the dark” over crucial details on Scottish agriculture’s funding package.

Issues yet to be settled include likely trading arrangements with the European Union and access to non-UK permanent and seasonal labour post Brexit.

Engagement with Westminster

National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) has had an unprecedented level of engagement with Westminster politicians and officials since the Brexit vote was taken two years ago.

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 (June 21).

Several Scottish MPs are also expected to visit the union’s stand over the next four days.

‘In limbo’

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “Scotland emerges from the shadow of the Common Agricultural Policy 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 make business decisions now that will not come into fruition until well after the UK has left the European Union.

“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.

‘A second season of unpicked fruit’

“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.”

‘Falling on deaf ears’

McCornick said that NFU Scotland had established that “almost every” soft fruit, flower and vegetable unit in Scotland experienced difficulties in recruiting labour in 2017.

“Although we are early in the season, reports on permanent and seasonal staff shortages are already coming through,” he said.

“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.”