A recent meeting between Farm Minister George Eustice and key UK agricultural stakeholders, including farmers, industry lobby groups, unions and scientists, has been described as “productive”.
There were a number of issues on the table, but there was a broad agreement that having the environment and sustainable food production at the heart of future farming policy is a positive opportunity for all territories.
There was also agreement that England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland must work collaboratively on solutions for new common frameworks to maintain the integrity of the UK internal market and give them the option of signing international agreements.
According to a spokesperson for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Mr Eustice was keen to hear about the devolved administrations’ plans for after the UK leaves the EU as he wants to ensure that there is opportunity for different areas to collaborate and learn from each other’s experiences.
Defra’s Brexit consultation paper for agriculture, entitled Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit, confirms the Government’s intention to replace the existing system of farm support with a new framework based on environmental enhancements and the delivery of public goods.
Defra has indicated that initially after Brexit certain powers would be retained by Westminster to provide for UK frameworks. However, farming unions across the UK’s devolved nations are concerned that the Government may seek a “power grab” of EU policy currently exercised by Brussels. They are seeking an appropriate balance between devolution and common UK frameworks after Brexit.
As one commented, continued dialogue on the union’s key principles of trade, labour and support is “hugely important”.