How UK farmers move from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to a domestic UK agricultural policy will depend on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, Defra Secretary Michael Gove has said.
Speaking at a House of Lords sub-committee last week, Gove confirmed that the UK would not necessarily withdraw from CAP once the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
“Regarding the CAP, I think that it would be sensible for us to have a maximum degree of regulatory freedom at the moment we leave the EU, but of course this is a matter, as everything is, for negotiation,” he said.
The British government has committed to keeping the total CAP at current levels until 2022, but the distribution of this money remains unclear.
“There will probably be a transition period for farm support, during which we do everything to ensure that existing farm businesses have broadly the same level of support in cash terms for quite some time,” Gove told peers last week.
He rejected comments made by committee chair Lord Teverson that Brexit presented the UK government with an opportunity to take payments away from farmers. “Almost every country has some method of providing support or channelling public investment into agricultural and environmental stewardship,” Gove said.
The Defra secretary maintained that future UK agricultural policy would deliver improved environmental conditions as well as increased agricultural productivity.
“Support for farmers based on the size of the agricultural holding should probably be capped. I don’t think there should be any cap on the amount of money that people receive for providing environmental services,” Gove said.
Peers were told that farm support would increasingly move towards paying farmers for delivering “public goods”, such as high environmental and animal welfare standards, as well as public access to land.
Gove also said that thought was being given to schemes to protect farmers from market volatility, through changes to the tax system or introducing government-run insurance schemes. “I hope that we will be able to produce a command paper outlining a direction of travel before very long,” he added.