TFA: Additional time granted for Brexit negotiations must be used wisely

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is urging MPs to work constructively over the next few days to make the most of the additional time made available to the UK to negotiate its exit from the EU.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “By far, the most straightforward way of progressing matters would be for Parliament to approve the deal negotiated by the UK Government, as supplemented with the further assurances and agreements made between the UK and the EU, that were ratified last week.

Any other outcome places the country somewhere between the risk of a potentially damaging no deal scenario on the one hand, and paralysing uncertainty on the other.

“Much has been said about the Northern Irish Backstop by those who oppose the negotiated settlement on the table. However, it is inexcusable that differences over this issue were not resolved long ago.”

Dunn questioned why the backstop had only become a stumbling point now, despite being known about as far back as December 2017.

“In the joint statement issued in December 2017, by the European Union and the United Kingdom on the ongoing negotiations, it was made clear that the Irish border issue would be resolved, either, in some form of overall free trade agreement between the UK and the EU, or in a temporary solution for the island of Ireland involving regulatory alignment with the EU,” he said.

At the insistence of the Government’s Confidence and Supply partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), additional words were added to the statement to the effect that whatever happened it would not impact on the economic or political position of Northern Ireland in the context of the United Kingdom.

“It seemed to us at the time that this was an attempt to live in four dimensions; protecting the unity of the United Kingdom, ensuring regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic, maintaining an open border in the island of Ireland and allowing the UK to agree on free trade agreements with other countries. A seemingly impossible task,” said Dunn.

No answers were forthcoming from either the Government or the DUP about how this would work in practice, and those now opposed to any deal with the EU have chosen now, the most explosive moment, to exploit that weakness.

“We may have wasted the last 12 months, but we must not now waste the extra two weeks we have been granted to find a resolution to our predicament.”