Paul Brannen, Member of the European Parliament for the North East, and the Labour Party’s European Parliament spokesperson on agriculture, expressed concern this week in response to Secretary of State for the Environment, Andrea Leadsom’s, remarks in her speech at the Oxford Farming Conference. Mrs Leadsom, promised to slash regulations for farmers as the UK leaves the EU. Such an approach should worry Britain’s agricultural community for two main reasons.
If Britain has lower environmental or animal health standards then our food produce will simply be denied access to the EU market, our farmer’s main external market. French farmers will be at the front of the barricades to demand ‘Non’ to British farm produce. The way to make British produce competitive is through superior quality and productivity not lower standards.
The second reason is that by failing to comply with those rules, which are aimed at helping to improve the environment, farmers will find themselves falling out with environmental groups such as the National Trust, the RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. These groups collectively have a bigger supporter base and a far bigger reach than the farming community and, critically, their supporters are tax payers and voters. As soon as they believe farmers are damaging the environment, not protecting and preserving it, then continued support for farm subsidies will be hard for any political party, including the Conservatives, to justify. In short, if farmers ditch environmental regulations they will in due course lose their public subsidies.
“Farmers in our region adhere to extremely high standards, ensuring that our food is safe and of good quality. They export a significant amount of their produce into the single market so “slashing regulations” could put livelihoods at risk. The North East farming community would be wise not to listen to Andrea Leadsom but should instead be making common cause with the likes of the National Trust and the RSPB to develop a farming and food policy that works for farmers, the environment and the public outside of the EU and the CAP.”