MINETTE Batters, president of the NFU, opened a new livestock sales complex at Skipton mart on Monday.

She spent the day meeting sheep farmers and stressed the need for a favourable trade deal with the EU post-Brexit.

The Yorkshire Dales is the largest sheep producing area in England with Yorkshire and the North-East containing 30 per cent of all sheep.

In 2015, the value of sheep meat exports to the EU topped £302 million – representing 95 per cent of all such exports.

During a visit to England’s largest sheep producing area, the Yorkshire Dales, Minette Batters will also highlight the significance of the sheep sector to the UK economy.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mrs Batters said this year’s lamb sales will be the last before the UK enters unchartered territory outside membership of the EU.

She said: “This brings into sharp focus the importance of securing a favourable trade deal with the EU, especially given the value of the sheep sector to the UK and the value of European export markets for sheep meat.

“The trade deals the country is now negotiating seem very far away, with few of us actually exporting or importing directly.

“But trade is absolutely fundamental to the future of our livestock industry.

“With so much at stake, the UK Government must adopt a trade policy which prioritises tariff free, frictionless access to the European marketplace.”

Such an agreement would be crucial to underpin market stability – not just for farmers but the wider supply chain.

“Clearly there are opportunities to explore new trading agreements with nations around the globe, but we cannot turn our backs on a trading relationship that has, for so long, influenced the development of our livestock industries,” said Mrs Batters.

She said farmers were determined to continue delivering for the nation – whether providing quality, traceable food, managing iconic landscapes, or helping the country achieve its environmental aspirations.

“But to do this we need the Government and its trade negotiators to understand the very real challenges facing livestock farmers as we head into unchartered waters and be ambitious in their negotiations,” she said.