UK environment minister on Brexit impact on farming
George Eustice tells NFU conference 2016, ICC Birmingham that leaving the EU would mean £2bn for farming and the environment.
Eustice says farmers would continue to receive subsidies from an independent UK
Wednesday 24 February 2016 12.54 GMT
Article Edited – Radical
Leaving the European Union would pay an £18bn a year “Brexit dividend” which would allow the UK to spend £2bn on farming and the environment, farming minister, George Eustice, has said.
Eustice sought to reassure farmers at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) annual conference that “without a shadow of doubt” they would continue to receive the subsidies for farming and environmental measures from an independent UK as they are currently paid through the EU’s agriculture policy.
The EU referendum, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), junior minister for food, farming and the marine environment declaring support for leaving the bloc.
Farmers have voiced concerns that Brexit would prevent them having access to the single market and the Treasury would not match the £2.4bn of support they get through Europe, which accounts for an average 53% of farm incomes.
But Eustice has told farmers at the conference the UK would do “far better” outside the EU, able to design and implement its own policies to support food and farming.
“I have taken a view, having wrestled with all sorts of EU regulation over the last two and a half years, that we would do far better as a country if we ended the supremacy of Europe and shaped new fresh thinking policies that really deliver for our agriculture.
“The truth of the matter is if we left the EU there would be an £18bn a year Brexit dividend, so could we find the money to spend £2bn a year on farming and the environment?
Of course we could,” he said.
Without a shadow of a doubt.”
He insisted a reinvigorated national parliament would demand the Treasury spent money on farming and environmental land management, and that bilateral agreements between the UK and EU would allow Britain more influence over the kind of regulations that farmers say they are hampered by.
Challenged to lay out what a post-Brexit policy for the countryside would look like, he said it would take away the split between payments for productive land and for environmentally friendly farming, streamline the environmental protection rules farmers must meet to get any payments and invest more in science and technology.
He also said payments for wildlife friendly farming schemes would continue, but the application system for them could be improved, and there could be payments to reward high animal welfare as well as for environmental measures.
“All of this would be possible if we took back control and had the ability to design and implement policies properly,” he said.
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