Minister hails Brexit as “once in a generation opportunity”

13 April 2017

FARMING Minister George Eustice has described Brexit as a “once in a generation opportunity to do something different.”

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was speaking at ‘An Audience With...’ event at Scorrier House, Redruth, organised by accountancy firm PKF Francis Clark, law firm Stephens Scown LLP and property consultants Savills.

Mr Eustice said he believed that in ten years’ time the country would look back on 2016’s historic referendum vote to exit the European Union as the right one.

He argued that centralised EU law in agriculture had militated against good governance because the complexity of centralised rules and the fines attached to minor mistakes had created a "perpetual culture of legal jeopardy" both within Defra and agriculture at large.

However, he also stressed the importance of a transition from current policy to any new arrangements and the importance of forging a close, new working partnership with the EU.

One of the largest areas of uncertainty surrounding the future of UK agriculture is the continuation of income support and direct payments with many different models being adopted around the world.

Mr Eustice hinted that the government was exploring the merits of alternative approaches including models such as futures markets and government backed insurance payments to help farm enterprises manage risk.

He said: “If one of the roles of the current CAP is income support, then we should ask whether there is a better way of addressing the reasons that farming needs income support. For me, the sheer degree of risk involved in farming makes it a unique and special industry so we should help farmers manage those risks."

The Minister offered assurance that funding will be available and the unfunded model running in New Zealand will not be replicated here.

He said: "Although there are some lessons that can be learnt from New Zealand and their market focus, New Zealand also dramatically devalued their currency at the same time as removing support pricing their agricultural produce into world markets."

Mr Eustice also said he wanted to end the perceived antagonism between productive farming and environmental sustainability arguing that they should be two sides of the same coin. He said: "I want us to aim to achieve a fusion of what you might call old fashioned farm husbandry and soil management with the best modern genetics and precision farming technology at our disposal today so we can farm suitably without compromising on yield."

The Camborne, Redruth and Hayle MP reassured audience members that he expected there to be an emphasis on continuity when it came to Higher Level Stewardship schemes arguing that we would not want to end such approaches given the investment that had gone into such schemes over a period of over twenty years.

He also said that to build a policy that would be for the long term and would last, it was essential policy design should be coherent and supported in the court of public opinion.

Mr Eustice said: “New policies must be robust and rooted in common sense. We need policy that can be easily defended politically to the public. We can’t create policy that is vulnerable to being dismantled by future governments. We also need a transition from the old system to the new. We do not want ‘cliff edges'. This needs to be an evolution to something better, not a revolution with painful consequences.”

Brian Harvey, Head of Agriculture, PKF Francis Clark, said: “All of the sponsors very much appreciated the Minister giving up his time to share his informed views.

“Hailing from a farming background and having been in his role for a number of years he clearly has a great understanding of his remit. I hope he will remain in his current role in order to develop the agricultural policy he outlined and put in place the foundations for a successful future for British farming”.

Michael Pennington, Head of Rural, Energy and Projects at Savills in Cornwall, added: “It was reassuring to see a minister keen to grasp a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-set farming, fisheries and rural policy, the benefits of which are felt by the wider population in terms of quality food production and management of the countryside.”

After the event, which was attended by more than 60 people, Mr Eustice said he had greatly enjoyed meeting local farmers.

He added: “The decision to leave the EU last year was a bold decision but in my view the right one for our country. We now have the chance to design a modern agriculture policy from first principles that is right for the UK.

“In the months ahead I will be meeting and engaging with many farming audiences to get their ideas for the future and to update them on the detailed work Defra has been doing on options to reform policy so that it supports profitable farming and delivers for both our farmed environment and animal welfare."  

 
 

Key Contacts

Louise Rose

Louise Rose

Director
Rural

Savills Margaret Street

+44 (0) 79 6755 5817

 

Michael Pennington

Michael Pennington

Director
Rural

Savills Cornwall

+44 (0) 1872 243 253