DEFRA: BREXIT AGRI POLICY PROPOSALS

A briefing paper was issued yesterday ahead of the debate held in Westminster Hall on the policy framework for agriculture after the UK leaves the EU.   The full report is available online:

 

UK agriculture, post-Brexit and, post transition, will be operating outside of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) under any scenario.

The key questions around a new UK agriculture policy are therefore:

  • How will the UK diverge from the CAP and in what way?
  • How much financial support will the UK Government continue to offer and how will it be allocated across the UK?
  • How will UK agriculture be managed across the devolved nations?

The UK Government has pledged to maintain the same cash funds as currently for CAP until the end of the Parliament, under the expectation that this will be 2022. It has also indicated that it is unlikely to move to any new system of farm support until after 2024.Proposals will be set out in a Command Paper later this spring – a pre-cursor to the Agriculture Bill (expected in this session) which will set out post-Brexit support arrangements for farmers.

The key elements of the emerging new policy for England (to be consulted on) are:

  • The UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (January 2018) set out how a new environmental land management system based on providing public money for public goods (such as habitat enhancement) is proposed to replace current direct payments to farmers in England.
  • Currently, CAP subsidies can make up anywhere from 50-80% of a UK farmer’s income and their practices will be sensitive to fluctuations in support or a change of direction or priorities in this support.
  • The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) (direct subsidies by area farmed) for 2019 will be paid as normal.

A five-year transition phase from farming subsidy to a system of public money for public goods over time whilst limiting some of the largest subsidy payments.

No lower standards for animal welfare or environment in trade deals and a new approach to food labelling with a new “world leading” standard for food and farming quality.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has also said he is:

  • confident of “building a new economic partnership with the EU” that guarantees tariff-free access for agri-food goods between the UK and EU.
  • seeking a flexible migration policy overall and post-Brexit wants to ensure “access to seasonal agricultural labour”.

Farming unions and environmental groups have broadly welcomed the initial proposals. Farming unions want any new farm support system to be part of a coherent approach to food production with domestic agriculture policy post-Brexit helping farmers to mitigate volatility and enhance productivity as well as delivering environmental benefits. Environmental groups want to see current funding for farmers maintained to support sustainable land management.

Some information on this subject can be found in the Secretary of State’s speech on the future of the UK farming industry at the Oxford Farming Conference on 4 January 2018, in the Government’s 25 year environment plan, and in section 4.9 on Agriculture and land management in the Commons Library’s briefing paper on the 25 year plan.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8218

Authors: Emma Downing; Sarah Coe; Elise Uberoi