ONGOING UNCERTAINTY over the UK’s future relationship with the EU is 'crippling' agri-businesses facing the ‘perilous’ situation of an impending no deal Brexit.

This message from Scotland’s National Farming Union comes as the UK Government engages in the latest round of Brexit negotiations with the EU and the clock is ticking on securing a deal before December 31.

NFUS have stressed the importance of the next 50 days, which they say are critical to the future fortunes of many Scottish food and farming businesses, and the jobs they support.

The union holds by its sentiment from four years ago that agriculture can flourish outside the EU if certain key requirements are met and top of the list is the avoidance of a ‘catastrophic’ no deal outcome and any short-term political and economic turmoil.

Despite the UK's ambitious trade agenda, the EU remains the largest and most accessible market for its agricultural produce and NFUS continues to argue for free trade in agri-food goods, as well as access to seasonal and permanent workers which make up a vital link in the UK food supply chain.

While apparent that significant differences remain between the UK and EU, NFUS is reminding negotiators and governments that the future stability and prosperity of the agriculture sector is incumbent on a favourable future relationship agreement being found.

NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “There have been multiple ‘crunch’ moments in the long history of EU withdrawal and future relationship negotiations, but seven weeks from the end of transition, we are now at the wire. The uncertainty is crippling. We are hearing from a growing number of members deeply concerned about what the future may hold for them.

“As an organisation representing 8500 farmers, crofters and growers across Scotland, we continue to do all we can to encourage business preparedness through the available guidance and resources. However, the reality is that that the future is difficult to prepare for when there is still so little clarity on what our relationship will be with the UK’s largest trading partner,” he stressed.

“We believe it is vital that the UK Government works constructively with the sector to ensure there are adequate safeguards, deal or no deal, that allow the sector to adjust to the new operating environment, whatever that may be,” he urged.

“Since the outset, NFUS has been crystal clear that there are opportunities from Brexit so long as the sector can operate within favourable trade, immigration and support policies. At this crunch moment, we need the UK Government to heed the needs of food and drink producers. They are of key strategic importance to the future health and prosperity of this nation,” he concluded.

For more on the open letter sent to Boris Johnson calling for specific actions to support the food and drink sector post-Brexit, see page 7.