NFU warns that PM’s announcement doesn’t take ‘No-Deal’ off the table

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned against extending Article 50 saying it is “unacceptable” to prolong the uncertainty currently facing British farms and businesses.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier on Tuesday (February 26), the Prime Minister offered MPs a “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal by March 12.

May told MPs that, through this, the UK would “only leave without a deal on March 29 if there is explicit consent in the House for that outcome”.

The vote will see MPs decide whether to back the latest incarnation of May’s withdrawal agreement, including any changes agreed with the EU by that point.

Should this fail, on March 13 MPs will vote on two separate issues: The prospect of a no-deal Brexit; and whether or not to request an extension to Article 50 to delay departure day.

Responding to the announcement from the Prime Minister yesterday that there could be an extension of Article 50 if her deal is voted down on March 12, NFU president Minette Batters said: “The NFU has always maintained that leaving the EU without a deal would be a catastrophe for British farming.

“Today’s statement by the Prime Minister that there may be a vote on extending Article 50 if her deal is voted down does lessen the chances of leaving with no deal 16 days later on March 29.

However, any extension of Article 50 does not take ‘no-deal’ off the table completely, it would simply delay the exit date.

“The Prime Minister has said any such extension would not be lengthy. Therefore, there would continue to be no certainty for British farmers as to what our trading relationship would be with the EU after this date.

“I maintain it is unacceptable for British businesses, including farmers, to be in this position. It is vital that, if there is to be an extension, that time is spent productively by Parliament in delivering a deal which will work for Britain.

“Simply delaying Article 50 and the associated uncertainty is not going to help British farmers and food producers – and wider British business – by itself.”

‘Farmers want answers’

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ivor Ferguson added: “This is not ideal for farm businesses here in Northern Ireland.

Farmers want answers and at this moment in time, they face uncertainty as to what any future trading relationship will look like with the Republic of Ireland and other EU Member States.

“We want to see a deal secured, one that allows for trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to continue with minimal disruption, and enables frictionless trade with the rest of the EU.”