Alliance representatives have called for the requirements of the agri-food sector to be central to a special deal for Northern Ireland in the event of Brexit.
Speaking from the Balmoral Show, Party Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA and Agriculture spokesperson David Ford MLA said the sector was of central importance to the local economy, representing around 10 per cent of activity and providing over 80,000 jobs.
“The profile of our economy is significantly different from the UK as a whole and therefore highlights very clearly the importance of a strong local voice in Brexit negotiations,” said Dr Farry.
“If Brexit does happen, Alliance wants to see an outcome in which the UK as a whole remains in a Customs Union with the EU and at least Northern Ireland continuing to participate in the Single Market. This configuration is fundamental to the future of local economy overall and in particular the agri-food sector.”
“There are four main challenges facing the sector,” said Mr Ford.
“Maintaining open and frictionless borders across these islands and with Europe is one – both access to markets and supply-chains on this island need to be protected. Secondly, access to labour, including EEA Nationals, must be preserved. There is an existing heavy dependency on the free movement of labour.
“Existing frameworks around regulation should also remain in place. Northern Ireland’s product is high quality and standards around food safety are of central importance. Lastly, there needs to be a revised system of farm support, including the UK Government providing sufficient resources outside those provided through the Barnett Formula in recognition of our much greater reliance on financial support from the EU relative to other parts of the UK.”