Pressure is mounting on the Government to avoid a no-deal divorce from the European Union, with concerns raised by two of Yorkshire’s most senior Conservative figures and industry leaders at the Great Yorkshire Show.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay faced frustrated business and agricultural representatives at a meeting on the Harrogate showground where Farming Minister Robert Goodwill and Baroness Anne McIntosh of Pickering said it was imperative that a no-deal scenario was averted.
With less than four months until the UK’s planned exit from the EU on October 31, both Jeremy Hunt and his rival to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, have refused to take a no-deal off the table.
Mr Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, who is backing Mr Hunt to become leader, said getting a deal with the EU must be the Government’s “single most important objective”.
He said: “We should work as hard as we can to secure a deal because a deal is really the only way we can ensure that the agricultural industry doesn’t face that cliff edge.”
Baroness McIntosh said she too favoured Mr Hunt for leader.
“I’m slightly concerned that he has said that he may leave with no deal... a deal is absolutely essential and a transition period for British agriculture is only secure if we have a deal.”
Following the showground meeting with Mr Barclay, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reiterated why a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous”.
NFU North East regional board chairman Rachel Hallos said: “We left him in no doubt of the damage that a no-deal Brexit would do to food and farming businesses in Yorkshire and nationwide.
“We stressed to him that British farming’s high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of new trade deals.”
The NFU wants a review of proposed no-deal tariff policy to better protect farm businesses.
Firms represented at the meeting with Mr Barclay included APS Salads, MH Poskitts, Wensleydale Creamery, Morrisons, BATA, Avara Foods and Arla Foods.
A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “Leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government’s top priority. However, a responsible Government must plan for every eventuality, including a no deal scenario.
“It is because agriculture is so significant in Yorkshire that Secretary of State Steve Barclay met NFU representatives at the Great Yorkshire Show this week to learn more about their concerns.
“By leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), we can put in place reforms that work across the UK.
“This allows us to determine how farmers are supported, while freeing them to continue world-class production and maintain the UK’s high standards of food safety and animal welfare.”