DEFRA MINISTER Michael Gove has assured the UK dairy sector that it has a major role to play in the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking after a tour of Arla Foods UK's Aylesbury site, the world’s largest fresh milk processing plant, Mr Gove said: “My visit was a chance to look around Arla’s state-of-the-art dairy site and see first-hand the scale of investment made to promote not only productivity, but also sustainability.

“Embracing new technology lightens our environmental footprint and it will help our farmers and food producers take full advantage of the opportunities ahead as we prepare to leave the EU, including access to new markets for our great British food."

Arla managing director Tomas Pietrangeli restated Arla’s support for Mr Gove’s vision of a green Brexit and its focus on maintaining environmental standards, highlighting the Aylesbury dairy’s credentials as the first net zero carbon dairy of its kind and Arla’s ambition to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% as part of its 2020 good growth strategy.

But future trading arrangements were also to the fore of the discussion – Arla has called on the UK Government to secure a Brexit deal that enables free trade without tariff or non-tariff barriers of dairy products. It is also urging ministers to provide clarity on the future of agriculture as early as possible to enable farmers to prepare for and adapt to any changes.

Oxfordshire farmer and chair of the Arla farmer Brexit taskforce, David Christensen, said: “Following the tour, we discussed with Mr Gove the challenges and opportunities that Brexit creates for Arla and its farmer owners.

“With one in four UK dairy farmers being owners of Arla, it is encouraging to hear from Mr Gove his commitment to collaboration with farmers as the Brexit plans and new agriculture policy are developed.”