Seventy-one years since the last Agriculture Bill, it now seems likely that the 2018 Agriculture Bill promised in the Queen’s speech in June 2017 will now come to the House of Commons before the summer recess.
One of the many unknowns of the post-Brexit world, the future funding of UK agriculture will be determined by the Agriculture Bill. The consultation period ended in May this year, but many within the farming community were left disappointed with the vague nature of Defra’s approach.
After Brexit, there will be a transition period, and following that, UK agriculture will be outside the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), this much is clear.
Since currently, the CAP subsidies can make up between 50 to 80% of an individual farmer’s income, the replacement policy is a highly sensitive and significant topic. Also, since 60% of the UK’s exported food, feed and drink go to EU countries, and 70% of our imported food, feed and drink come from EU countries, if the UK leaves the single market and customs union post-Brexit, the situation could be very different.
Currently, the UK enjoys free movement of goods and people within the EU and no tariffs or quotas. The UK’s ability to trade with the EU following Brexit will, therefore, depend on what deal is reached generally, as to the overall Brexit terms.
With farmer confidence at an all-time low, the NFU says this is a once in a generation opportunity to enhance and promote British farming. The Government has indicated it wishes to move away from the subsidy system which is worth £3 billion and based on the amount of land farmed or owned. It is nevertheless, committed to providing this sum to farmers initially, followed by a longer transitional percentage reduction period, for adjustment. Critics have suggested that the tight Brexit schedule may not leave enough time to properly scrutinise the proposed Bill.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops over the summer and bring you further updates.