A HIGH-ranking government official heard just vital farming and the food and drinks industry were to the county's economy.

And a pledge that Cumbria's twin breadwinners would not be left behind post-Brexit was made to a round-table discussion in Carlisle involving local farmers and members of the agri-business industry.

As chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee, Neil Parish said he would now be fighting tooth and nail to get the best possible settlement for Cumbria's and Britain's agricultural and food and drink industries in the Brexit negotiations.

The meeting, held in the Boardroom at Harrison & Hetherington's Borderway Mart, Rosehill, was instigated by Carlisle MP, John Stevenson.

Afterwards, Mr Parish said the EU was a vital market for British agriculture and food and drink exports.

And, he added, farming was the bedroom of the UK's food and drink industry, worth £108 billion to the economy and providing jobs for 3.9 million people.

And with this in mind, he believes it's crucial the country retains a close relationship with the EU market.

"Securing as low tariffs as possible on British agricultural goods entering the EU must be a priority in the Brexit negotiations," said Mr Parish.

"Brexit gives us a good chance to design a policy that very much fits our agricultural industry, and the uplands. This include more forest and land catchment for holding water in times of flood and we would look at payments for this," he added

Mr Stevenson said the meeting provided a great opportunity to put over current issues that were facing farmers and agri-businesses in his constituency.

"Agriculture and the food and drinks industry is hugely important to Carlisle and the county. We have many major employers in the food and drink sector, including Nestle, McVities and Cavaghan and Gray, and Bells of Lazonby, so it is not just about agriculture," said Mr Stevenson.

"We have the initial thoughts of government, but it is up to us to influence them post 2020," he added.