The food industry in Northern Ireland has responded to the general election call in the UK, which will take place on Thursday, June 8.

Declan Billington, Chair of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association said it’s being widely speculated that the snap general election will lead to an enhanced majority of conservative seats.

“It is hoped that this will lead to a more pragmatic and common sense approach by the UK to the ‘exit’ negotiations with Europe, due to a larger conservative majority reducing dependence on the Brexit hard-liners going forward.

If this should be the case then it should be welcomed, as the exit terms will have far-reaching consequences for the local agri-food industry and the Northern Ireland economy as a whole.

Billington added that, in relation to a local election in Northern Ireland, it is unlikely to discourage local political parties from making compromises required to allow a restoration of the Executive.

“No one should be under any misapprehension; the interests of Northern Ireland are best served by our Executive taking its seat at the table and driving a local agenda that will deliver for the local economy.

“I would, therefore, call on our politicians at this pivotal moment in our history to focus on finding the middle ground which allows them to work together to represent all of us, and get on with the job at hand.”

Billington has also confirmed that talks are ongoing between his organisation and the Ulster Farmers’ Union to agree an overarching Brexit strategy for agriculture and food.

“These discussions will be finalised over the coming weeks.

“They will take account of cross-border issues, trading relationships between Northern Ireland and the rest of Europe plus the support arrangements that will be available to farming in Northern Ireland, once Whitehall takes over the purse strings in 2020.

“We need a joined-up approach coming out of London where farming and food are concerned. Communicating this reality will be a priority for both industries over the coming weeks and months,” he said.