The Government has been accused of getting off to a terrible start in its approach to post-Brexit trade negotiations by failing to appoint a minister with specific responsibilities for agriculture.
Landowners group, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), has expressed its alarm at the omission, following a series of ministerial portfolio announcements for the newly formed Department for International Trade this week.
At present 73 per cent of British agri-food exports go to European Union members states, which means securing trade deals for British food is vital for the health of the country’s farming industry.
The CLA, which represents 32,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses, claimed there was a history of British agriculture being treated as a low priority or excluded from international trade negotiations.
Helen Woolley, the CLA’s director general, said: “Leaving the EU can be an opportunity for businesses across the countryside, we have great entrepreneurs and great products. If the conditions are right we will thrive. But those conditions will not come about without careful planning and tough negotiations.
“Nowhere is that more the case than in agriculture. It is notoriously difficult to establish open trade deals for farming products. It is seriously alarming that no Government Minister has been given specific responsibility to deliver it.
“We now seek urgent reassurance that Government will deliver for our farmers and rural producers. We expect the Department for International Trade to start working together with us straight away and this is a terrible start.”
Ms Woolley warned food prices could rise, the nation’s food security may be compromised and the environment would suffer “if we don’t get this right”.