Leaders of Wales’ rural council areas have called on the UK government to urgently set out coherent plans for trade, funding and replacement legislation to come into force when the current transition period ends.
Existing arrangements will need to be replaced in the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period in just five months’ time. It is vitally important that the changes introduced safeguard the livelihoods of those living and working in rural communities.
In a meeting of the WLGA Rural Forum last week, council leaders expressed deep concern at the prospect of crashing out of the transition period in December without a trade deal with the EU, and the consequences for some of the most prominent sectors in rural areas, including farming and agriculture, food and drink, and tourism and hospitality.
Regulations currently set at an EU level in matters such as animal welfare, environmental health and trading standards will also need to be replaced and will significantly impact on rural communities.
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn (Gwynedd), Joint Chair of the WLGA Rural Forum said:
“With only five months to go until the transition period ends, the clock is ticking for the UK Government to outline to rural communities how their interests will be protected as we leave the European Union. Our communities need assurance that a funding, policy, legislative and regulatory framework safety net will be in place to protect rural areas from transformative change as we leave the EU.
“Rural communities have benefited from the arrangements in place over the last 40 years. They have enabled our farmers to export their produce without any tariffs or complicated checks, our businesses and communities to benefit from various funding programmes and our citizens to be protected by high food and consumer standards. It is crucial that a comprehensive free trade deal is struck with the EU so that our farmers and businesses can still benefit from friction less access to the EU market.”
Councillor Rosemarie Harris (Powys), Joint Chair of the WLGA Rural Forum added:
“At a time when we’re all also grappling to fully comprehend how profoundly the current crisis will impact on rural life in the long term, now more than ever, people in our rural communities need to be supported. We want to see thriving, prosperous, well connected rural communities across Wales. But we can only achieve that with investment in a bold, long-term vision for rural Wales, and a clear understanding at all levels of their distinct needs.
“That is why we are progressing our work in developing a long-term vision for rural Wales with key partners at this crucial time for our rural businesses and communities, that will inform a Rural Recovery Plan for Wales. We are also progressing our key asks of both the UK and Welsh governments in terms of the immediate support required to sustain and build-in the resilience required in our rural communities to deal with the implications of a looming no trade deal, the increased climate change crisis and the on-going implications of the COVID-19 crisis for our rural communities.”