Meat trade organisations react to General Election result
With the Conservative Party wining a huge majority at the end of last week following the General Election Meat Management asked some of the leading trade bodies for their take on the results and what it means for the meat sector.
Alan Clarke, chief executive of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), said that the outcome of the general election has brought some welcome clarity to years of political uncertainty surrounding Brexit. However, it was now time for the UK Government to ensure that the future trade deal which is secured with the EU is free and frictionless and does not add complexity or additional cost to the Scottish red meat industry.
“The Scottish red meat industry has worked hard, over many decades, to build strong brands and to produce top quality products which have earned an iconic reputation in export markets around the globe as well as in the UK,” said Clarke.
“Our brands are underpinned by world-class production methods, animal welfare, traceability and sustainability standards, so it is essential that sub-standard imported beef, lamb and pork, which would be illegal to produce here, are not part of any future trade policy.”
Clarke added that an immigration policy that reflects the needs of a labour pool for the Scottish red meat industry is also vitally important going forward.
“Where non-UK labour is of fundamental importance to the red meat supply chain is in the slaughter and processing sector,” said Mr Clarke. “Not only is non-UK labour important on the factory floor but it is also key in respect of veterinary inspection.”
“Without access to skilled domestic or migrant labour, the ability of the Scottish red meat sector to contribute to the growth targets set by the Scotland Food and Drink Partnership in its Ambition 2030 strategy published in spring 2017 could be compromised.”
Head of policy at AIMS, Norman Bagley:
“The Conservative Manifesto carried two messages on its front cover. The now famous and well used ‘Get Brexit Done’ and a second message, in the same sized font and just as prominent “’Unleash Britain’s Potentia.’.
“The new Government’s sizeable majority coupled with a commitment from every Conservative MP to support the PM’s Brexit means that we now will have an orderly exit from the EU as of the 31st January 2020 and the task of Unleashing Britain’s Potential will begin.
“For the members of AIMS unleashing their potential must be for the Government to ensure that their businesses remain viable, free from over burdensome regulation and that regional rural economies can flourish.”
SAMW executive manager, Martin Morgan:
“Now that the Prime Minister has a sizeable majority we welcome that he has already indicated his commitment to ‘Get Brexit Done’ by pushing the Withdrawal Bill quickly through Parliament.
“The plea from all sectors must be to ‘get Brexit done well’ and secure a trade deal that allows businesses to continue to trade across the channel with customers old and new with minimum friction and zero delays.”
BMPA chief executive, Nick Allen:
“The long and damaging period of uncertainty should now be over. Parliament now has the authority to make decisions which will hopefully release the country from the damaging impasse and move to a period during which real progress can be made.
“Our only ask is that, in this new period, the Government remembers to involve industry closely in the trade negotiations that will shape this country’s future. It has been quite apparent in recent times that they have little understanding of how international trade works. As they start to negotiate new trade deals, whether it be with Europe or other countries, it is so important they involve industry and the practitioners to make sure those deals are beneficial to the country. If we are to survive and thrive in the new world we are now entering, this will be key to our success.”
Ian Stevenson, Livestock Meat Commission, Northern Ireland chief executive:
“The Northern Ireland beef and sheep meat industry has been totally united in its opposition to a damaging no deal Brexit so some relief has come from the election result that a withdrawal agreement (however imperfect) is likely to be progressed through Parliament in the coming weeks. However, a huge job of work remains to be done to ensure that the future UK – EU relationship is one which delivers free and frictionless trade for our agri food industry. The European Union is our most important trading partner and the pursuit of new trade deals with third countries must not be at the expense of our own domestic production base and a greater reliance on imports for our food security. We have world class food systems in the UK and the new Government in Westminster must support the industry through the many challenges and opportunities to come during the lifetime of this Parliament.”
National Sheep Association chief executive, Phil Stocker:
“For the last three years we have been left in limbo waiting for one thing or another to happen, crippled by indecision and with a seriously divided society. But having reached the end of this general election period, with a returned prime minister holding the strongest mandate this country has seen in decades, we can be sure that at least the first layer of uncertainty has been removed. We cannot allow our future to be based on one side winning and one losing and if the new Government wants to live up to its strapline of a one nation Government it will need to demonstrate that we are all equal stakeholders in our future.”
NFU president Minette Batters:
“The NFU will start working with the new government and parliament straight away to ensure all areas of Westminster and Whitehall understand and value the importance of British food and farming.
“During the election campaign, we spoke to candidates from all parties to reiterate to them the strategic importance of our industry to the nation; one that contributes £122 billion to the UK economy, delivering jobs for almost four million people and affordable food for the entire country. Many of those candidates are now MPs, so we will be continuing those conversations in Westminster and inviting them out on farm so they can see first-hand the high standards British farmers are proud of and the safe, traceable food systems British people value. We, of course, will be seeking meetings with Ministers as soon as possible.
“In our own election manifesto, we raised a number of crucial issues we need the new government to address now, to ensure British food production has a sustainable and ambitious future.
“Top of that list is Brexit. It’s imperative we secure a future trade deal with the EU that is as free and frictionless as possible, avoiding the damaging spectre of trading with our largest partner on WTO terms. Alongside this, our future trade policy mustn’t allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce here.
“The UK could embark on its first trade negotiations for decades in just 50 days’ time – the government must set up a Trade and Standards Commission as a matter of urgency so that they can work with industry and stakeholders to ensure those negotiations do not allow the high standards which are the hallmark of UK farming to be undermined by imported food which would fail to meet our own domestic regulations and values surrounding animal welfare, environmental standards and traceability.
“From our ambitious vision for agriculture to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 to increasing our self-sufficiency by producing more high-quality, British food at home, British farmers are ready and able to tackle the challenges ahead as well as making the most of new opportunities.
“We live in a country that has some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards in the world, all the while providing the British public with the third most affordable food on the planet, and at the same time maintaining and enhancing the iconic British landscape. That’s why the public trusts and supports British farmers.
“Britain needs the new government to back British farming like never before; to invest in domestic food production so we can increase our productivity, create more jobs and deliver more for the environment. Government needs to act to ensure guaranteed access to a skilled and competent workforce; develop a framework for a more competitive and sustainable farming industry; put in place a long-term food strategy; and place science at the heart of policy making. This will allow farming businesses to continue doing what they do best – provide safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick:
“The scale of the election win for the Government brings the reality that, after two years of political stagnation, the UK will leave the European Union.
“There is no doubt that dither and delay has stifled confidence within the Scottish agricultural and food sectors, and it is vital that the new UK Government takes early steps to give certainty.
“The Government has indicated that the necessary legislation to leave the EU on 31 January will be presented to parliament next week. Once passed, the real work then begins on agreeing the future trading arrangements with Europe. Those talks are critical to the future of our industry.
“It is these negotiations that will be the real bread and butter of Brexit for NFU Scotland members. That is where the terms of the trade deal between the UK and the EU will be agreed. For NFUS, ensuring as free and as frictionless trade in agri-food goods with the EU, which remains our principal market outside of the UK, has been our priority from the start of this process.
“Whether negotiating with the EU, or establishing new trade deals with other countries worldwide, a red line for us is that Scotland’s high standards must be recognised and protected.
“Our members can be reassured that their union has begun engagement with this new parliament today and we will make tracks to Westminster at the earliest opportunity as we enter a new era for Scottish farming and crofting.”
- The Conservative Party won its largest majority, by 80 seats, in the House of Commons since the 1987 election under Margaret Thatcher and the Labour Party had its worst return of seats in any general election since 1925.
- The Conservatives won 346 seats, Labour 203 seats, Scottish National Party 48, Liberal Democrats 11 seats, DUP 8 seats, Plaid Cymru 4 seats, Sinn Fein 7, SDLP 2, Green Party 1, Alliance 1.