McIlveen welcomes DEFRA minister George Eustice to Northern Ireland

Date published: 19 October 2016

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Michelle McIlveen, has welcomed DEFRA Minister George Eustice to Northern Ireland to meet key stakeholders in the agri-food industry.

Mr Eustice, who is Minister for Farming, Food and Marine Environment, was in the province for discussions on the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union and how best Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry can exploit the opportunities that come with it.

Miss McIlveen, who earlier had held a separate meeting with Mr Eustice at Stormont yesterday evening, said: “I would like to thank Mr Eustice for coming to Northern Ireland. I know that he was keen to hear from a broad cross section of representatives from our agri-food industry about their hopes and concerns on the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“This was a valuable opportunity for me to underline my three top priorities, which are: to preserve vital financial support for the farming, and fisheries, sectors; to ensure an agricultural policy framework that underpins the growth and competitiveness of our agri-food sector; and to safeguard our continued ability to trade effectively and profitably both inwardly and outwardly.”

Miss McIlveen accompanied Mr Eustice to La Mon House Hotel in Co Down where together they met industry representatives who shared their views and concerns on the EU exit with the Ministers.

Miss McIlveen said: “I believe it was essential for Mr Eustice to have the opportunity to listen to senior figures at the forefront of Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector.

“Our agri-food sector is much more important to the local economy than is the case in Great Britain. In 2015, total farming income would have been negative without subsidies. Around 70% of the output of our food and drinks sector is sold externally. I have impressed upon Mr Eustice that we in Northern Ireland have a huge stake in future trade and support arrangements and that we need to be closely involved when developing new arrangements post-Brexit.”

Mr Eustice, who had a series of engagements during his brief visit, said: "Food and farming is worth more than £4.8billion a year to the Northern Ireland economy and employs 70,000 workers. That’s why we are determined to get the very best deal for the industry in our upcoming negotiations for leaving the EU.

“Throughout the process of preparing the UK position we will work with all the devolved administrations to ensure the interests of all parts of the country are properly taken into account. We want to ensure a thriving future for a food and farming industry that is innovative, competitive, profitable and resilient.”

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