Scotland’s farming and crofting sectors are undoubtedly amongst the most affected by yesterday’s EU referendum result – and the UK government should give the industry an immediate reassurance that both access to European export markets and support measures will be maintained.
While stressing to the industry that there would be no immediate change to the current support and marketing systems, Scottish rural economy cabinet secretary, Fergus Ewing, yesterday called for a firm signal from Westminster that measures would be available to support the industry in the longer term.
Terming the result a “historic democratic calamity”, he said that, almost above all others, the farming community, with its reliance on market access and support was most entitled to be given some clarity and certainty.
He said that the farming industry – and the Scottish economy - was reliant on over £1.9 billion worth of Scottish food and drink exports annually heading to the continent and EU support of €4.6 billion over the 2014-20 period.
“There will be farmers across the country – but especially those in the less favoured hill and upland areas who will be extremely concerned about what the future holds.”
“I would like to reassure them that as their farming minister I will leave no stone unturned in my efforts to ensure that they continue to receive the financial support required to allow their businesses to continue.”
Stating that as the UK government had conceded that it had no “Plan B” in terms of what would replace EU farm support, he said this damaging information gap had to be filled as soon as possible.
*While no minister was available from Defra for comment yesterday – where secretary of state Liz Truss had advocated remaining in the EU while farm minister, George Eustice had campaigned for out, a spokesman said:
“The Prime Minister was clear there needs to be a system of agricultural support in the event of a decision to leave the EU. Going forward the government will work with industry and the public to develop these new arrangements.”
“But the PM set out that Article 50 will not be triggered immediately, so there is time for us to absorb the verdict of the British people and think about these things.”
l EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan said that he regretted but respected the decision of the British people to leave the European Union.
He echoed the call of the Commission’s president, Jean Claude Juncker, for a swift and decisive negotiation on the UK’s exit through article 50, in the interests of both sides.
“It’s essential that we set in train the steps to bring clarity and stability,” said Hogan.