Farming union urges speedy NI progress on planning for post-Brexit agriculture


Planning for the future of agriculture post-Brexit needs to make rapid progress despite the Stormont political impasse, the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said.

Local parties support the release of a consultation document by civil servants ahead of a ministerial decision on the way forward, chief executive Wesley Aston said.

The UK Government has already sought views on the future of food, farming and the environment in England.

Mr Aston said: "We were told very clearly that the NIO can only get involved when political parties want them to get involved."

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He was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs at Westminster.

Agricultural experts said preparations for Brexit were well advanced compared with the rest of the UK but the problem was the lack of a minister.

A recent court judgment that a civil servant's planning decision on an incinerator was unlawful has cast doubt on the extent of administrators' powers.

Mr Aston added: "We do know that there is the public interest test and around this particular document, the potential consultation, the understanding is that they are trying to pursue that.

"From our discussion with all the political parties they recognise that it needs to get out there for consultation in order that things can move forward, albeit that decisions cannot be taken post the consultation, that will need ministers but there has to be a public interest benefit, just the same as RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive)."

He said a decision had been taken on the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme because that was in the public interest.

"How that decision is taken is not for the UFU to decide but we are stressing the importance of getting that consultation out there sooner rather than later."

He said people were listening.

"We are reasonably optimistic on this one because we have political support across all the parties and it is in the public interest because of time moving on."