UK minister promises ‘clarity’ on farm support, policies post-Brexit

31 January 2017 9:56am

21 July 2016. By Matthew Newman.

The UK government will provide “clarity” to farmers about future subsidies and agricultural and environmental policies, a junior minister said today.

During a debate on post-Brexit farming policies, Lord John Gardiner, undersecretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was quizzed on the government’s plans after the UK voted to leave the EU.

Gardiner said Andrea Leadsom, the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “has been clear that this needs to be looked at very carefully.”

Baroness Genista Mary McIntosh, who called for the debate, said farmers want assurance on future financial support and whether migrant workers can continue to pick fruit and vegetables in British fields.

“Can the minister give us assurance, and the farming community today, that the existing contractual arrangements will be met and that those basic farm payments will be respected?” she said.

She also asked about the UK’s future trade deals with European countries and the Commonwealth countries, many of which have preferential trading arrangements with the EU.

John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, asked whether the 2.6 billion pounds of EU subsidies and 637 million pounds in EU rural development aid that were granted in 2013 will continue.

“How will [the government] ensure that British farmers continue to receive these payments,” he asked. “And we’ve already heard that they may not.”

“Farmers will have to receive this level of support or the whole fabric of rural society and the country will collapse,” he said.

Baroness Margaret Beryl Jones said farmers will have to lobby to ensure that UK funds that were sent to the EU budget will be used for agricultural development.

“It’s not pessimistic but realistic that these funds won’t be protected in a post-Brexit UK budget,” she said. “It’s not just the money, it’s also the legislative framework too.”

Gardiner, a former government spokesman, said it will be “business as usual” until the UK leaves the EU.

“We continue to be a full member of the EU,” he said. “UK farmers have access to the single market, and still need to comply with legislation.”

He said there are opportunities to strike new trade deals around the world.

“We will forge the strongest economic links with our European neighbors as well as close friends in North America and the Commonwealth, and countries such as Japan and China, where export opportunities are endless,” he said.

“As we negotiate our exit, we have an unparalleled opportunity to develop a new approach and to make sure our policies are delivering for us,” he said.

He said the new Conservative government will consider “the long-term vision for the environment, food and farming.”

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