UK farmers share fears with EU over Brexit delay
The Ulster Farmers' Union has joined its colleagues in Britain to write to their counterparts in Europe to warn that a no-deal Brexit would be "economically disastrous".
The UFU and the National Farmers' Unions of Wales, Scotland and England say that it is in every nation's interests to avoid a disorderly exit.
And as Prime Minister Theresa May met the leaders of France and Germany to press her case for an extension to the UK's departure from the EU until June 30, the unions said that time was also needed for recognition of the needs of farming businesses across Europe.
EU leaders will meet today for a summit on Brexit to decide whether or not to grant the UK's request for an extension.
Yesterday UFU president Ivor Ferguson said farmers were facing "unbelievable" uncertainty.
He said: "Like all EU farming unions, our organisations represent thousands of farming families and it is unbelievable and unacceptable that we are still operating without any certainty on a future trading relationship.
"This is having real world business consequences right now, as well as causing unnecessary stress and huge anxiety for farmers, both at home and across the EU, who simply don't know what trading conditions they will be operating under in the future.
"We continue to call for politicians to ensure free and frictionless trade and alignment on high standards of production."
Mrs May held meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday to urge them to back her extension request.
Meanwhile, Mr Ferguson said he was concerned at the attitude of Brexiteers in Westminster to a crash-out and the prospect of higher levels of cheap food imports.
Speaking at the UFU's Annual Presidents' Dinner at the Lough Erne Resort and Spa on Friday, Mr Ferguson said: "It is concerning to hear some MPs at Westminster, mostly staunch Brexiteers, pushing to open the UK market to cheaper, lower standard food imports.
"UK food prices are the third lowest in the world, and yet consumers enjoy some of the highest environmental and animal welfare standards.
"Opening up our home market to cheaper imports would have serious consequences for farmers and their businesses in Northern Ireland."
And he said that he was concerned and disappointed by the ongoing Stormont stalemate.
"We have heard the excuses, but it is time Northern Ireland had a functioning devolved government again," he added.