MPs Warn of Concerns for Farming in Brexit Negotiations

UK - MPs are warning the Government that the farming sector and environmental protections must not be weakened during the process of leaving the EU or afterwards.
calendar icon 5 January 2017
clock icon 2 minute read

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said: "Changes from Brexit could put our countryside, farming and wildlife at risk.

"UK farming faces significant risks – from a loss of subsidies and tariffs on farm exports to increased competition from countries with weaker food, animal welfare and environmental standards. The Government must not trade away these key protections as we leave the EU. It should also give clarity over any future farm subsidies."

The subsidy issue was a particular concern for the EAC, as the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) makes up 50-60 per cent of farm incomes, so leaving the CAP will threaten the viability of some farms. The Committee said new subsidies should have clearly defined objectives linked to the delivery of public goods, like the promotion of biodiversity, preventing flooding and storing carbon, rather than simply providing income support to farmers.

New trading relationships or barriers to trade were further possible impacts on farmers identified by the EAC.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said it was pleased that the Committee has highlighted these concerns, but NFU Vice President Guy Smith expressed disappointment that food production was not included in the list of public goods, adding that food security and food production should be regarded as strategically important for the country.

"The NFU urges Government to commit to working with farmers to establish a domestic farming policy designed to ensure a resilient farming sector alongside work to protect and enhance the environment," Mr Smith commented.

"The domestic agricultural policy should seek to deliver competitive, profitable and progressive farm businesses through a number of measures which also address price and market volatility and improvements in sectoral economic performance."

On environmental protection rules, Ms Creagh said: "Protections for Britain's wildlife and special places currently guaranteed under European law could end up as 'zombie legislation' even with the Great Repeal Bill."

The EAC said that the 'zombie legislation' risk would occur if EU legislation is transposed into UK law but is no longer updated, has no body enforcing it and can be eroded through statutory instruments with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.

The Environmental Audit Committee is calling on the Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act during Article 50 negotiations to maintain the UK's strong environmental standards.

"The Government should safeguard protections for Britain's wildlife and special places in a new Environmental Protection Act," Ms Creagh added.

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