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Leaving the EU: Departmental Preparation

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 2017.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 12:00 am, 7th December 2017

What steps his Department is taking to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom put in place a major programme of work to prepare for the UK’s departure from the European Union, planning for a number of scenarios, and we in DEFRA keep the effectiveness of that work under continual review. It is led by outstanding civil servants, to whom I wish to pay tribute now.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

We know that, in several areas, EU rules have prevented us from improving standards of animal welfare. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he is now doing the detailed preparation so that on day one of our freedom, he will be ready to take action, including to ban the trade in the export of live animals?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. That work is being undertaken now, not just in the area to which he rightly alludes but in other areas of animal welfare as well.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

By next summer, the UK chemical industry will have spent £250 million registering its chemicals. It is united in wanting to remain within the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—REACH—scheme and to avoid EU tariffs of between 4% and 6% on its goods, so why is the Secretary of State proposing to double its regulatory burden by setting up a new agency here? Why is he playing politics with our second largest manufacturing sector?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Lady has been a consistent champion of the work that is done in our world-leading chemicals industry. We are seeking to find the right regulatory framework to ensure that we can continue to do good work.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

On this very point, sir, does my right hon. Friend agree that we absolutely have to continue our support for glyphosate, which protects the environment by reducing the need for excess tillage and the need to use other herbicides? With he continue to support this safe herbicide once Brexit has taken place?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I am delighted that Phil Hogan, the outstanding Commissioner for Agriculture, has secured assent for the reauthorisation of glyphosate for five more years. It is, as my hon. Friend makes clear, a valuable tool for ensuring that we can move towards no till or min till agriculture, which in itself is an environmental gain.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My colleagues and I are working hard to try to get the Northern Ireland Executive restored, but in the absence of an Executive will the Secretary of State ensure that he has discussions with the permanent secretary at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development in Northern Ireland to ensure that our sector and its niche markets are protected beyond March 2019?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Absolutely. I am looking forward to representatives from DAERA coming to DEFRA next Thursday for the latest in our series of talks. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and his Democratic Unionist party colleagues, who ensure that my ministerial colleagues and I are kept up to the mark with the policies that need to be shaped in the interests of Northern Ireland’s farmers and fisherman, who do so much to ensure that there is healthy food on all our plates.