The House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on 26th May concerning the Impact of the EU referendum on UK agriculture policy (the Agricultural Paper).

This paper provides an update to their general briefing paper ‘EU referendum: Impact on EU exit in key UK policy areas’ (the Briefing Paper).

The Briefing Paper

The Briefing Paper (published in February) provides a general overview of the current situation in a range of policy areas and contemplates the effect that the UK leaving the EU will have on each area. Some of the areas discussed are:

  • Business, trade and financial services
  • Immigration, employment and the labour market
  • Food and the environment
  • Energy and climate change
  • Legal services, including human rights and police and justice co-operation
  • Social security, education and health
  • Transport
  • International affairs, including Foreign and defence policy

The Agricultural Paper

The main focus of the Agricultural Paper revolves around EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support for agricultural and rural development, which  currently accounts for nearly 40% of the EU’s budget. Farmers are naturally concerned about the vast uncertainties surrounding withdrawal from the EU and its consequent impact on the UK’s food and farming industry, particularly as EU subsidies currently make up around 50-60% of farm income. Although Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that he is committed to ensuring that an agricultural support system is ‘properly maintained’, so far the UK Government has provided no Plan B for agriculture on exit which leaves farmers without any real concept of the effect that leaving the UK would have on their livelihood.

Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss and Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy publicly support a ‘remain’ position on the basis that the EU Exit would be a ‘leap in the dark’ for farmers. However, Geoffrey Eustice the farming minister has now set out a potential approach to farm support and policy outside of the EU, which suggests maintaining some level of subsidies. UKIP has also set out a similar proposal.

The Agricultural Paper lists the key issues that those working within the agricultural sector should consider when contemplating exit, including:

  • future levels of payment support and rural development funding
  • overall national farm policy and regulation
  • future trade models and seasonal labour availability
  • the potential for greater deregulation and innovation outside CAP
  • From a general rural perspective, there is also the issue that the CAP includes Rural Development Programmes for each Member State which fund the broader rural economy e.g. rural broadband, agri-environment schemes and tourism.

 For more information visit our Agriculture section or contact our specialist team below.

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