First Minister: Unfettered access to EU paramount for Welsh farming

First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones stressed the importance of UK Brexit negotiations maintaining full market access to the EU during his speech at a packed National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Cymru Brexit seminar at the Royal Welsh Show.

Speaking at his final Royal Welsh Show as a Government minister, Jones told the packed audience in the NFU Cymru and NFU Mutual marquee that Brexit presented the “biggest challenge” farming had faced since the end of the war.

Unfettered access

Jones used his address to underline his firm belief that full unfettered access to EU markets and the Customs Union were “paramount” if the Welsh agricultural industry is to prosper after March 2019.

He also reaffirmed that Welsh Government would continue to honour its agreement to ring-fence funding for agriculture and that future funding arrangements with the UK Government should not be subject to the Barnett Formula.

Speaking after the ‘Brexit – Where are we now and where are we heading?’ seminar, NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “We are extremely grateful to the First Minister for participating in today’s Brexit seminar. It was an excellent opportunity for NFU Cymru members, the media and the wider public with a forum to discuss how Brexit could impact Wales.

The key points to come out of today’s Brexit seminar are that access to key markets remains a huge concern for Welsh farmers, not least those in the sheep industry who currently see a third of the Welsh lamb crop go to the EU.

“I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of negotiators securing a deal that allows the industry to prosper post-Brexit.

Alignment on views

“It was also pleasing to hear that there is alignment between Welsh Government and NFU Cymru around funding for the industry going forward.

“While we have welcomed the opportunity to participate in the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation and discuss the public good and economic resilience proposals, we have made no secret of our belief that volatility or stability measures should also be part of any future policy and this is a point we will continue to push at every given opportunity.

“We are, however, firmly on the same page as the First Minister and his Government when we say that we do not want to see future funding allocated through the Barnett Formula – that kind of cuts will not help us in our ambitions to grow and industry that is delivering for the people and the communities of Wales.

“Food production also provided a sizeable talking point during today’s seminar. The findings of our recent YouGov consumer survey show that 83% of the Welsh public value Welsh farmers’ food producing capacity.

We maintain that while food production isn’t deemed a ‘public good’ in an economic sense, it is very much a public right and a public need.

“It is for that reason that we as a Union strongly believe that any future policy in Wales should balance food production alongside farmers’ maintenance and enhancement of the Welsh environment.”