NI farmers call for Stormont to be restored to avoid ‘damaging scenario’

Farmers in Northern Ireland have called for politicians to reach an agreement to restore the devolved government in the face of the major challenges posed by Brexit.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is part of four social partners that are increasing pressure on politicians to return to Stormont to enable the region to head-off the “unique” problems it will be forced to tackle when the UK leaves the EU.

It warned that Brexit would result in losses of £325 million (€370 million) a year in EU funding for agriculture and fisheries, as well as financing for rural development. As such, it wants the outcome of any negotiations with Brussels “to ensure the social and economic benefits from such funding is sustained”.

The other voices in the partnership come from: the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; the Northern Ireland arm of the Confederation of British Industry; and the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action.

On the issue of trade, the partners noted that 58% of NI exports go to the EU – with the Republic of Ireland accounting for two-thirds. As such, the campaign said it was essential that the UK retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union until a final settlement on Brexit is reached.

“This will avoid a damaging scenario which will have a potentially significant impact not just on trade but on thousands of jobs in the region,” a statement for the campaign said.

It further called for the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland to be preserved, to ensure there continues to be a “migration system that facilitates business to access the skills and labour it needs to sustain itself and grow”.

The campaign warned of the threat to the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process, cautioning that the outcome of the negotiations on Brexit should not “in any way alter the terms of the agreement without democratic consent”.

It added: “Without a government to fully represent our interests, how can we ensure that Brexit takes full account of our unique position as the only part of the UK with a land border with another EU member state; our uniquely high levels of trade with the EU/ROI; our unique all-island healthcare and energy arrangements; and the unique framework for stability provided by the Good Friday agreement?”

This comes as the leader for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, finalised a deal – which involved £1 billion (€1.13 billion) in extra funding for NI – with the Conservative party after meeting UK Prime Minister Theresa May this morning, June 26.

And, with only three days left to complete a deal with Sinn Fein on the power-sharing NI Executive, Foster this morning said she hoped an agreement would be reached later this week.