'Wrong' Brexit could risk 'decimation of UK's ability to feed itself', NFU warns

In her open letter to Tory candidates, Minette Batters highlights the importance of avoiding a no-deal Brexit
In her open letter to Tory candidates, Minette Batters highlights the importance of avoiding a no-deal Brexit

The NFU President is urging Conservative leadership hopefuls to get Brexit 'right' or risk the 'decimation of Britain’s ability to feed itself'.

The stark warning is in an open letter to the remaining 10 candidates for the next leader of the party, and consequently next Prime Minister.

The winner of the contest to succeed Theresa May is expected to be announced in the week of 22 July.

NFU President Minette Batters is urging candidates to commit to delivering a 'positive future' for British food production and to work with farmers to 'seize opportunities'.

She highlights the importance of avoiding a no-deal Brexit, which will do 'considerable economic damage' to Britain’s food and farming sectors.

Instead, Mrs Batters urges the hopefuls to look at key policy areas which would encourage the future Prime Minister to work with farmers.

This includes a Brexit that encourages free and frictionless trade in agri-food goods and an immigration system that maintains access to a seasonal and permanent workforce.

She also calls for the next leader to look at a future agricultural policy which supports farmers as food producers and acknowledges the importance of domestic food production.

'Farming is at a crossroads'

In the letter, the NFU President says farming is at a 'crossroads' and the industry most affected by the UK's decision to leave the EU.

“Get it right and the rewards can be huge; get it wrong and we could see the decimation of Britain’s ability to feed itself and to care for our iconic landscapes.

“For this reason, the next Prime Minister must commit to doing everything in their power to avoid a hugely damaging no-deal Brexit, given the enormous economic damage this would entail for our food and farming sectors, the wider economy and the people of the UK.

“Of course, avoiding no-deal and achieving the right outcome from Brexit remains a huge priority for farm businesses; but we also want to work with the next Prime Minister and their government on a broader range of issues, to seize the opportunities the future holds.”

She adds: “As a candidate in the Conservative leadership election, I am asking you to rise to these challenges and pledge your support for farming and commit to a positive future for domestic food production and the high standards associated with it.”

A letter has also been sent to the candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership reiterating the role they can play in supporting British farming, such as encouraging the Agriculture Bill’s passage through Parliament.

Who is standing to replace Theresa May?

Defra Secretary Michael Gove

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Home Secretary Sajid Javid

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart

Former Chief Whip Mark Harper