17 May 2002

Celtic alliance ready for the fray

AN increasingly close Celtic alliance of farming unions and farm ministers is likely to put considerable pressure on UK farm minister Margaret Beckett when it comes to the mid-term CAP review.

Echoing a familiar complaint from the Scots and Welsh, John Gilliland, president of the Ulster Farmers Union, says Northern Irelands needs have been overshadowed too many times by a Downing Street Agenda.

"Commissioner Fischler will announce his proposals on June 19," says Mr Gilliland. "Tied in with this review will be the desire for a deal in the next WTO round, which has already started over the winter.

"Europe must stand strong in defence of the European model of agriculture and the UK must not be allowed to render itself impotent during this mid-term review, as was the case during the Agenda 2000 negotiations," he says.

"The UFU will work very closely with our Celtic cousins in NFU Scotland, NFU Wales, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

"This will allow us to bring considerable pressure to bear on Margaret Beckett, so that she represents the views of the devolved regions as well, and not just the Downing Street line."

Maintaining milk quotas and fighting compulsory modulation are at the top of the Celtic unions agendas. And, with support from their ministers in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, Mr Gilliland believes Mrs Beckett will be forced to temper her plans.