Farmers seeking answers as UK gears up for Brexit talks
- Credit: Archant
Farmers have raised a lot of questions but “haven’t too many answers” as the UK gears up for Brexit, a conference was told this week.
National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond, addressing the last NFU conference before article 50 is triggered, pointed out that by next year, the country would be halfway through the negotiating process to leave Europe but much was still unclear.
“We must make sure that by next year we have the clarity that the industry needs,” he said.
While remaining optimistic about the future, the industry could not rely on “blind faith” that everything would be fine, he warned.
“We shouldn’t assume that politicians will grasp the importance of Britain having a food production system, or that farming will be placed front and central in the negotiations. That would be naïve and unrealistic,” he said.
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Those at the conference had a role to play in speaking to their MPs and inviting them onto their farms, he said.
Speaking on Tuesday, the first day of the conference in Birmingham, environment secretary Andrea Leadsom promised farmers she would “fight your corner at every opportunity”, but said change was “inevitable” and set out five new principles for future UK farm subsidy.
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She claimed a key factor behind the vote to leave the EU was to control immigration, and suggested innovation as a way forward. “I want to find out what kind of labour you need,” she said.
She described the Common Agricultural Policy as flawed and argued it tied farmers up in red tape, offered poor value for money and failed to address the key issues the sector faces.
“It’s a blunt tool that offers little reward or recognition for the services you provide to this country. And it’s desperately complicated,” she said. “I am determined that we will do so much better for farmers when we leave the EU – with a system based on simpler, more effective rules, we’ll be free to grow more, sell more, and export more of our Great British food.”
Principles underpinning future food and farming policy would be trade, productivity and competitiveness, the environment, animal and plant health and welfare and resilience, she said.